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Q2EtitI) TsTotcs anti Blustrations. 

BY J. A. GILES, D.C.L., 







" William of IMalmesburt," according to archbishop Usher, 
" is the chief of our historians ;" Leland records him " as an 
elegant, learned, and faithful historian ;" and Sir Henry 
Saville is of opinion, that he is the only man of his time who 
has discharged his trust as an historian. His History of the 
Kings of England was translated into English by the Rev. 
John Sharpe, and published in quarto, in 1815. 

Though the language of Mr. Sharpe's work is by no means 
so smooth as the dialect of the present day would require, 
yet the care with which he examined MS S., and endeavoured 
to give the exact sense of his author, seemed so important a 
recommendation, that the editor of the present volume has 
gladly availed himself of it as a ground-work for his own 
labours. The result of this plan is, that the public are en- 
abled to purchase without delay and at an insignificant 
expense, the valuable contemporary historian, who has 
hitherto been like a sealed book to the public, or only acces- 
sible through a bulky volume, the scarcity of which served 
to exclude it from all but public libraries or the studies of 
the wealthy. 

But the translation of IMr. Sharpe has by no means been re- 
printed verbatim. Within the last ten years a valuable 
edition of the original text, with copious collations of MSS., 
has been published by the English Historical Society. This 
edition has been compared with the translation, and numerous 
passages retouched and improved. Some charters, also, have 
been added, and a large number of additional notes appended 
at the foot of the pages, together with a few other inaprove- 
ments and additions calculated to render this interesting his- 
tory more acceptable to the reading public. 

Bamjpton, June^ 1847. 

^0 if 303 

J. A. G. 



The author whose work is here presented to the public in 
an English dress, has, unfortunately, left few facts of a per- 
sonal nature to be recorded of him ; and even these can only 
be casually gleaned from his own writings. It is indeed 
much to be regretted that he who wrote so well on such a 
yariety of topics, should have told so little to gratify the 
curiosity of his readers with respect to himself. Every 
notice of such an ardent lover of literature as Malmesbury, 
must have been interesting to posterity, as a desire to be 
acquainted with the history of those who have contributed to 
our instruction or amusement seems natural to civilized man. 
With the exception indeed of the incidental references made 
by successive chroniclers, who borrowed from his history, 
there is nothing to be learned of him from extrinsic sources 
till the time of Leland, who indignantly observes, that even 
at Malmesbury, in his own monastery, they had nearly lost 
all remembrance of their brightest ornament. 

To himself then we are indebted for the knowledge of his 
being descended from both English and Norman parents ; his 
father having probably come hither at the conquest. The 
exact time of his birth cannot be ascertained ; though per- 
haps an approximation to it may be made. In the " Com- 
mentary on Jeremiah,"* Malmesbury observes, that he " had 
long since, in his youthful days, amused himself with writing 
history, that he was now forty years of age ;" and, in another 
place, he mentions a circumstance which occurred " in the 

* " Olim enim cum historias lusi, viridioribus annis rerumque laetitia 
congruebat rerum jocunditas. Nunc setas progressior, et fortuna deterior, 
aliud dicendi genus expostulant. Quadragenarius sum hodie" &c. Prol. 
in expos. Thren. Hierem. MS. Bodl. 868. 


time of king Henry ;"* apparently implying that Henry was 
then dead. Now, admitting the expression of " long since" 
to denote a period often years, this, as his "Histories of the 
Kings" and " of the Prelates" were completed in the year 
11 25, must have been written about 1 135, the time of Henry's 
death, and would of course place his own birth about 1095 
or 1096.t 

The next circumstance to be noticed is, that when a boy, 
he was placed in the monastery whence he derived his name, 
where in due time he became librarian, and, according to 
Leland, precentor ; and ultimately refused the dignity of 
abbat. His death is generally supposed to have taken place 
about 1143; though it is probable that he survived this 
period some time : for his " INIodern History" terminates at 
the end of the year 1142 ; and it T\all appear, from a manu- 
script hereafter to be described, that he lived at least long 
enough after its publication to make many corrections, altera- 
tions, and insertions, in that work as well in the other por- 
tions of his History. 

With these facts, meagre as they are, the personal account 
of him must close. But vnih regard to his literary bent 
and attainments there is ample store of information in his 
writings. From his earliest youth he gave his soul to study, 
and to the collecting of books 4 and he visited many of the 
most celebrated monasteries in the kingdom, apparently in 
prosecution of this darling propensity. The ardour of his 
curiosity, and the unceasing diligence of his researches, in 
this respect, have perhaps been seldom surpassed. He seems 
to have procured every volume within his reach ; and to 
have carefully examined and digested its contents, whether 

* " Ista autem avis (struthio) membrorum grandium, pennas quidem 
habens, sed volatu carens. Qualem in Anglia Aidimus, tempore regis 
Henrici externonim monstrorum appetentissimi." Ch. iv. v. 31. 

"j~ He has afforded another notice of time, but not equally precise. 
Godfrey is said to have been abbat of Malmesbury from the year 1084 till 
1105 ; and Malmesbury mentions certain transactions which took place in 
Godfrey's time as beyond his memory; and others which happened when 
he was a boy. Anglia Sacra, II. 45 — 7. If Malmesbury wrote the mira- 
cles of St. Andrew, a work which is attributed to him, he was bom the 30th 
of November. 

X He says he also collected many books for the monastic library : and 
mentions others which he had seen at Canterbury, Bury St. Edmunds, &cs. 
Gale, torn. iii. pp. 376, 298. 


divinity, history, biography, poetry, or classical literature. Of 
his acquirements as a scholar it is indeed difficult to speak in 
terms of sufficient commendation. That he had accurately 
studied nearly all the Roman authors, will be readily 
allowed by the classical reader of his works. From these he 
either quotes or inserts so appositely, as to show how 
thoroughly he had imbibed their sense and spirit. His adapta- 
tions are ever ready and appropriate ; they incorporate with 
his narrative with such exactness that they appear only to 
occupy their legitimate place. His knowledge of Greek is 
not equally apparent ; at least his references to the writers 
of Greece are not so frequent, and even these might proba- 
bly be obtained from translations : from this, however, no 
conclusion can be drawn that he did not understand the lan- 
guage. With respect to writers subsequent to those deemed 
classics, his range was so extensive that it is no easy matter 
to point out many books which he had not seen, and cer- 
tainly he had perused several which we do not now possess. 

Malmesbury's love of learning was constitutional : he de- 
clares in one of his prefaces, that had he turned to any other 
than literary pursuits, he should have deemed it not only 
disgraceful, but even detrimental to his better interest. 
Again, his commendations of Bede show how much he vene- 
rated a man of congenial inclinations and studies ; and how 
anxious he was to form himself on the same model of accu- 
rate investigation and laborious research, and to snatch every 
possible interval from the performance of his monastic duties, 
for the purposes of information and improvement. 

His industry and application were truly extraordinary. 
Even to the moment when we reluctantly lose sight of him, 
he is discovered unceasingly occupied in the correction of 
his works.* In the MSS. of the "History of the Kings" 

* Some notion of his diligence may perhaps be afforded by the following 
list of his writings. 

1. De Gestis Begum. The History of the Kings of England. The first 
three books were probably written soon after the year 1120. Malmesbury 
intimates that he then hesitated for a time on the expediency of continuing 
his history ; but at length having determined on prosecuting his design, he 
dedicated the fourth and fifth books to Robert earl of Gloucester ; at whose 
request he afterwards composed 

2. Historice Novellce. The Modern History. This appears to have been 
bcgim after the death of Henry I ; probably not long before 1140. 

translator's preface. ix 

may be found traces of at least four several editions ; and 
the " History of the Prelates " supplies nearly as many 
varieties. And though it may reasonably be imagined that 

3. De Gestis Pontificum. The History of the Prelates of England con- 
taining, in four books, an account of the bishops, and of the principal 
monasteries, from the conversion of the English, by St. Augustine, to 
1123 ; to which he added a fifth 

4. De Vita Aldhelmi. The Life of St. Aldhelm : which was completed in 
1125. It is very reasonably conjectured that this last was published sepa- 
rately and some time after the others ; as, though there are many ancient 
AISS. of the first four books, one copy only has yet been discovered with the 
fifth. The former were published by Saville, but from very faulty and scanty 
MSS. The latter by H. Wharton, and by Gale ; but also very defectively. 

5. De Vita S. Dunstani. The Life of S. Dunstan, in two books. MS. 
Bodley Rawlinson, 263. This was WTitten at the request of the monks of 
Glastonbury, for whom he had pre\iou8ly composed the following three : 

6. Vita S. Patricii. The Life of S. Patrick, in two books. Leland, 
Collectanea, 3, 272, has extracts from it, but no MS. has hitherto 

7. Mlracula S. Benigni. The Miracles of S. Benignus. This has not 

8. Passio S. Indracti. The Martyrdom of S. Indract. MS. Bodley 
Digby, 112. This he translated and abridged from the Anglo-Saxon. 
Abbreviated in Capgrave's Legenda Nova. 

9. De Antiquitate Glastonienais Ecdesice. The History of Glastonbury. 
It is addressed to Henry bishop of Winchester, and was of course written 
after 1129. Printed in Gale's Collection, t. 3, and by Hearne, from an 
interpolated MS. 

10. Vita S. Wulstani Episcopi Wigorniensis. The Life of S. Wulstan, 
Bishop of Worcester. A Translation from the Anglo-Saxon, addressed to 
Prior Guarin, between 1124 and 1140. The greater part of it has been 
printed. Anglia Sacra, t. 2. 

11. Chronica. Chronicles, in three books. See p. 480. This work is 
probably lost. 

12. Miracula S. Elfgifce. The Miracles of Elfgifa, in metre. A 
specimen of these rhymes, there printed as prose, may be seen in the 
De Gestis Pontif. f. 143 : they were apparently written while he was very 
young ; as, before 1125, he says, ^^ quondam cecini." 

13. Itinerarium Joannis Abbatis Meldunensis versus Romam. The 
Itinerary of John Abbat of Malmesbury to Rome. This was drawn up, 
after 1140, from the relation of another monk of that foundation who 
accompanied the abbat. Leland, Collect. 3, 272, ed. 1774, mentions it as 
being very curious. It does not occiu", but it was formerly in the possession 
of Bale. 

14. Expositio Threnorum Hieremice, A Commentary on the Lamenta- 
tions of Jeremiah. MS. Bodley, 868. Abridged from Paschasius 
Radbert, probably about 1 1 36. 

15. De Miraculis Divce Marim lihri qnatuor Gul. Cantoris Malmsburie. 
The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin, in foiu: books. 

X translator's preface. 

a great portion of the alterations are merely verbal, and of 
course imperceptible in a translation, jet they contribute in an 
extraordinary degree to the polish and elegance of his style.* 
Another excellent feature of Malmesbury's literary character 
is, his love of truth. He repeatedly declares that, in the 
remoter periods of his work, he had observed the most 
guarded caution in throwing all responsibility, for the 
facts he mentions, on the authors from whom he derived 
them ; and in his own times he avers, that he has recorded 
nothing that he had not either personally witnessed, or 
learned from the most credible authority. Adhering closely 
to this principle, he seems to have been fully impressed with 
the difficulty of relating the transactions of the princes, his 
contemporaries, and on this account he repeatedly apologizes 
for his omissions. But here is seen his dexterous management 
in maintaining an equipoise between their virtues and vices ; 
for he spares neither William the First, nor his sons who 
succeeded him : indeed several of liis strictures in the earlier 
editions of this work, are so severe, that he afterwards found 
it necessary to modify and soften them. 

His character and attainments had early acquired a high 
degree of reputation among his contemporaries. He was 
entreated by the monks of various monasteries to write either 
the history of their foundations, or the lives of their patron 
saints. He associated with persons of the highest consequence 

16. De Serie Evangelistarum, Carmine. The Order of the Evangelists, 
in verse, Leland, Collect. 4. 157. These two have not occurred. 

17. De Miraculis B. Andrece. The Mu-acles of S. Andrew. MS. 
Cotton. Nero, E. 1. Abridged from a very prolix work. 

18. Abbreviaiio Amalarii de Ecclesiasticis Officiis. Amalarius on 
Ecclesiastical Offices, abridged. MS. Lambeth. 380. 

19. Epitome Historice Aimonis Floriacensis. The History of Haimo of 
Flory, abridged. MS. Bodley, Selden. Arch. B. 32. 

Several other works are attributed to him by Tanner, on the authority 
of Bale and Pits. 

* These remarks on the character and style of our author must be 
received, as they say, cum grano sails. They more justly evince the zeal 
of Mr. Sharpe than the merits of Malmesbury's composition. The classical 
reader Avill probably lament with me that our early historians should have 
used a style so cumbersome and uninviting. To this general censure 
Malmesbury is certainly no exception. His Latinity is rude and repulsive, 
and the true value of his m-itings arises from the fidelity with which he has 
recorded facts, which he had either himself witnessed or had obtamed from 


and authority ; and in one instance, at least, lie took a share 
in the important political transactions of his own times. 
Robert earl of Gloucester, the natural son of Henry the 
First, was the acknowledged friend and patron of Malmes- 
bury. This distinguished nobleman, who was himself a 
profound scholar, seems to have been the chief promoter 
of learning at that period. Several portions of our author's 
work are dedicated to him, not merely through motives of 
personal regard, but from the conviction that his attainments 
as a scholar would lead him to appreciate its value as a com- 
position, and the part wliich he bore in the transactions 
of his day, enable him to decide on the veracity of its 

Having thus stated the leading features of IMalmesbury^s 
life, his avocations and attainments, it may not be irrelevant 
to consider the form and manner which he has adopted in 
the history before us. A desire to be acquainted with the 
transactions of their ancestors seems natural to men in every 
stage of society, however rude or barbarous. The northern 
nations, more especially, had their historical traditions, and 
the songs of their bards, from the remotest times. Influenced 
by this feeling, the Anglo-Saxons turned their attention to 
the composition of annals very early after their settlement in 
Britain ; and hence originated that invaluable register the 
Saxon Chronicle,* in which facts are briefly related as 
they arose ; — in chronological order, indeed, but without 
comment or observation. After the Norman conquest, 
among other objects of studious research in England, history 
attracted considerable attention, and the form, as well as the 
matter, of the Saxon Chronicle, became the prevailing 
standard. It might readily be supposed that Mahnesbury's 
genius and attainments would with difiiculty submit to the 
shackles of a mere chronological series, which afforded no 
field for the exercise of genius or judgment. Accordingly, 
foUoAving the bent of his inclination, he struck into a different 
and freer path ; and to a judicious selection of facts gave the 
added charm of wisdom and experience. It may therefore 
be useful to advert to the exemplification of this principle in 
the scope and design of the work immediately before us. Hia 

* This valuable work has been published, together with Bede's Eccle- 
siastical History, in a preceding volume of this series. 


first book comprises the exploits of tlie Anglo-Saxons, from 
the period of their arrival till the consolidation of the empire 
under the monarchy of Egbert. Herein too is separately 
given the history of those powerful but rival kingdoms, 
which alternately subjugated, or bowed down to the 
dominion of, each other, and deluged the country with 
blood, as the love of conquest or the lust of ambition 
prompted. The second portion of the work continues the 
regal series till the mighty revolution of the Norman 
conquest. The three remaining books are occupied with 
the reigns of William and his sons, including a very 
interesting account of the first Crusade. His Modern 
History carries the narrative into the turbulent reign 
of Stephen. 

Such is the period embraced: and to show these times, 
" their form and pressure," Malmesbury collected every 
thing within his reach. His materials, as he often feelingly 
laments, were scanty and confined, more especially in the 
earlier annals. The Chronicles of that era afibrded him but 
little, yet of that little he has made the most, through the 
dihgence of his research and the soundness of his judgment. 
His discrimination in selecting, and his skill in arranging, 
are equally conspicuous. His inexhaustible patience, his 
learning, his desire to perpetuate every tiling interesting or 
useful, are at all times evident. Sensibly alive to the de- 
ficiencies of the historians who preceded him, he constantly 
endeavours to give a clear and connected relation of every 
event. Indeed, nothing escaped his observation which could 
tend to elucidate the manners of the times in which he wrote. 
History was the darling pursuit of Malmesbury, and more 
especially biographical history, as being, perhaps, the most 
pleasing mode of conveying information. He knew the pre- 
vailing passion of mankind for anecdote, and was a skilful 
master in blending amusement with instruction. Few his- 
torians ever possessed such power of keeping alive the 
reader's attention; few so ably managed their materials, or 
scattered so many flowers by the way. Of his apt dehnea- 
tion of character, and happy mode of seizing the most promi- 
nent features of his personages, it is difiicult to speak in 
terms of adequate c'ommendation. He does not weary with 
a tedious detail, " line upon line," nor does he complete his 


portrait at a sitting. On the contrary, tlie traits are scat- 
tered, the proportions disunited, the body dismembered, as it 
were ; but in a moment some master-stroke is applied, some 
vivid flash of Promethean fire animates the canvass, and the 
perfect figure darts into life and expression : hence we have 
the surly, ferocious snarl of the Conqueror, and the brutal 
horse-laugh of Rufus. Malmesbury's history, indeed, may 
be called a kind of biographical drama ; where, by a skilful 
gradation of character and variety of personage, the story is 
presented entire, though the tediousness of continued narra- 
tive is avoided. Again, by saying little on uninteresting 
topics, and dilating on such as are important, the tale, which 
might else disgust from the supineness or degeneracy of some 
principal actor, is artfully relieved by the force of contrast : 
and the mind, which perhaps recoils with indignation from 
the stupid indifference of an Ethelred, hangs, with fond de- 
light, on the enterprising spirit and exertion of an Ironside. 

It may be superfluous, perhaps, after enumerating qualities 
of this varied kind, in an author, who gives a connected his- 
tory of England for several centuries, to observe, that readers 
of every description must derive instruction and delight from 
his labours. Historians, antiquaries, or philosophers, may 
drink deeply of the stream which pervades his work, and 
find their thirst for information gratified. The diligent 
investigator of the earlier annals of his own country, finds a 
period of seven hundred years submitted to his inspection, 
and this not merely in a dry detail of events, but in a series 
of authentic historical facts, determined with acuteness, com- 
mented on with deliberation, and relieved by pleasing anec- 
dote or interesting episode. When the narrative flags at 
home, the attention is roused by events transacting abroad, 
while foreign is so blended with domestic history, that the 
book is never closed in disgust. The antiquary here finds 
ample field for amusement and instruction in the various 
notices of arts, manners,- and customs, which occur. The 
philosopher traces the gradual progress of man towards civil- 
ization ; watches his mental improvement, his advance from 
barbarism to comparative refinement ; and not of man alone, 
but of government, laws, and arts, as well as of all those 
attainments which serve to exalt and embellish human na- 
ture. These are topics carefully, though perhaps only inci- 


dentally, brought forward; but tbey are points essentially 
requisite in every legitimate historian. Here, however, it 
must be admitted, that in the volume before us, a consider- 
able portion of the marvellous prevails ; and though, perhaps, 
by many readers, these will be considered as among the most 
curious parts of the work, yet it may be objected, that the 
numerous miraculous tales detract, in some measure, from 
that soundness of judgment which has been ascribed to our 
author. But it should be carefully recollected, that it became 
necessary to conform, in some degree, to the general taste of 
the readers of those days, the bulk of whom derived their 
principal amusement from the lives of saints, and from their 
miracles, in which they piously believed: besides, no one 
ever thought of impeaching the judgment of Livy, or of any 
other historian of credit, for insertions of a similar nature. 
Even in these relations, however, Malmesbury is careful that 
his own veracity shall not be impeached ; constantly observ- 
ing, that the truth of the story must rest on the credit of his 
authors; and, indeed, they are always so completely sepa- 
rable from the main narrative, that there is no danger of 
mistaking the legend for history. 

Having thus noticed the multifarious topics embraced by 
Malmesbury, it may be necessary to advert to his style: 
although, after what has been premised, it might seem almost 
superfluous to add, that it admits nearly of as much variety 
as his facts. This probably arises from that undeviating 
principle which he appears to have laid down, that his chief 
efforts should be exerted to give pleasure to his readers ; in 
imitation of the rhetoricians, whose first object was to make 
their audience kindly disposed, next attentive, and finally 
anxious to receive instruction.* Of his style, therefore, 
generally speaking, it may not be easy to give a perfect 
description. To say to which Roman author it bears the 
nearest resemblance, when he imitated almost every one of 
them, from Sallust to Eutropius, would be rash indeed. 
How shall we bind this classical Proteus, who occasionally 
assumes the semblance of Persius, Juvenal, Horace, Lucan, 
Virgil, Lucretius ; and who never appears in his proper 
shape so long as he can seize the form of an ancient classic ?| 

* See his prologue to the Life of Wulstan, Anglia Sacra, ii. 243. 
+ Some of these allusions are occasionally marked in the notes. 


Often does he declare that he purposely varies his diction, 
lest the reader should be disgusted by its sameness; anx- 
iously careful to avoid repetition, even in the structure of his 
phrases. It may be said, however, that generally, in his 
earlier works, (for he was apparently very young when he 
wrote his History of the Kings,) his style is rather laboured ; 
though, perhaps, even this may have originated in an anxiety 
that his descriptions should be full ; or, to use his own ex- 
pression, that posterity should be wholly and perfectly in- 
formed. That his diction is liighly antithetical, and his 
sentences artfully poised, will be readily allowed; and per- 
haps the best index to his meaning, where he may be occa- 
sionally obscure, is the nicely-adjusted balance of his phrase. 
That he gradually improved his style, and in riper years, 
where he describes the transactions of his own times, became 
terse, elegant, and polished, no one will attempt to dispute ; 
and it will be regretted, that this interesting portion of his- 
tory should break off abruptly in the midst of the contest 
between the empress Maud and Stephen. 

In this recapitulation perhaps enough has been said to 
make an attempt at translating such an author regarded with 
kindness and complacency. To prevent a work of such ac- 
knowledged interest and fidelity from remaining longer a 
sealed book to the English reader, may well justify an under- 
taking of this kind ; and it should be remarked that a trans- 
lation of Malmesbury may serve to diffuse a very different 
idea of the state of manners and learning in his days from 
that wliich has been too commonly entertained ; and at the 
same time to rescue a set of very deserving men from the 
unjust obloquy with which they have been pursued for ages. 
For without the least design of vindicating the institutions 
of monachism or overlooking the abuses incident to it, we 
may assert that, in Malmesbury's time, rehgious houses were 
the grand depositaries of knowledge, and monks the best 
informed men of the age. 

It remains briefly to speak of the mode in which the trans- 
lation has been conducted. The printed text of Malmesbury * 

* A considerable portion of the present work was printed anon}Tnously 
as a continuation of Bede, at Heidelberg, in 1587. The whole, together 
with the History of the Prelates, was first pruited by Sir Henry Savill*^, 
who appears to have consulted several copies in the "Scriptores pest 


was found so frequently faulty and corrupted that, on a careful 
perusal, it was deemed necessary to seek for authentic manu- 
scripts. These were supplied by that noble institution, the 
British Museum; but one more especially, which, on an 
exact comparison with others, was found to possess indisput- 
able proofs of the author's latest corrections. This, Bib. 
E,eg. 13, D. II, has been collated throughout with the 
printed copy ; the result has produced numerous important 
corrections, alterations, and insertions, which are constantly 
referred to in the notes. In addition to this, various other 
MSS. have been repeatedly consulted; so that it is presumed 
the text, from which the translation has been made, is, by 
these means, completely established. 

As the plan pursued by Malmesbury did not often require 
him to affix dates to the several transactions, it has been 
deemed necessary to remedy this omission. The chronology 
here supplied has been constructed on a careful examination 
and comparison of the Saxon Chronicle and Florence of 
Worcester, which are considered the best authorities; 
although even these occasionally leave considerable doubt 
as to the precise time of certain events. The remoteness 
of the period described by Malmesbury makes notes also in 
some measure indispensable. These are derived as frequently 
as possible from contemporary authors. Their object is 
briefly to amend, to explain, and to illustrate. By some per- 
haps they may be thought too limited ; by others they may 
occasionally be considered unnecessary ; but they are such as 
were deemed likely to be acceptable to readers in general. 

With these explanations the translator takes leave of the 
reader, and is induced to hope that the present work will 
not be deemed an unimportant accession to the stock of 
English literature. 

Bedam," London, 1596, fol. This was reprinted, but with many additional 
errors, at Frankfort, 1601, fol. Saville's division into chapters, in the second 
book more especially, has no authority ; but as it appeared sufficiently con- 
venient, it has been adopted : the division of the sections is nearly the same 
throughout all the MSS. 





To my respected Lord, the renowned Earl Robert, son of 
the King, health, and, as far as he is able, his prayers, 
from William, Monk of Malmesbury. 

The virtue of celebrated men holds forth as its greatest 
excellence, its tendency to excite the love of persons even far 
removed from it : hence the lower classes make the virtues of 
their superiors their own, by venerating those great actions, 
to the practice of which they cannot themselves aspire. 
Moreover, it redounds altogether to the glory of exalted 
characters, both that they do good, and tliat they gain the 
affection of their inferiors. To you. Princes, therefore, it is 
owing, that we act well ; to you, indeed, that we compose 
anything worthy of remembrance ; your exertions incite us 
to make you live for ever in our writings, in return for the 
dangers you undergo to secure our tranquillity. For this 
reason, I have deemed it proper to dedicate the History of 
the Kings of England, which I have lately published, more 
especially to you, my respected and truly amiable Lord. 

* Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the Mecaenas of his age, was a natural son 
of Henry I., and a man of great talents and of unshaken fidelity. He 
married Mabil, daughter of Robert Fitzhamon, by whom he had a numerous 
issue. He died October 31, a.d. 1147. 



2 THE author's epistle. 

None, surely, can be a more suitable patron of the liberal 
arts than yourself, in whom are combined the magnanimity 
of your grandfather, the munificence of your uncle, the cir- 
cumspection of your father ; more especially as you add to 
the qualities of these men, whom you alike equal in industry 
and resemble in person, this peculiar characteristic, a devo- 
tion to learning. Nor is this all : you condescend to honour 
with your notice those literary characters who are kept in 
obscurity, either by the malevolence of fame, or the slender- 
ness of their fortune. And as our nature inclines us, not to 
condemn in others what we approve in ourselves, therefore 
men of learning find in you manners congenial to their own ; 
for, without the slightest indication of moroseness, you re- 
gard them with kindness, admit them with complacency, and 
dismiss them with regret. Indeed, the greatness of your 
fortune has made no difierence in you, except that your 
beneficence can now almost keep pace with your inclination. 
Accept, then, most illustrious Sir, a work in wliich you 
may contemplate yourself as in a glass, where your High- 
ness's sagacity will discover that you have imitated the 
actions of the most exalted characters, even before you could 
have heard their names. The Preface to the first book de- 
clares the contents of this work ; on deigning to peruse 
which, you will briefly collect the whole subject-matter. 
Thus much I must request from your Excellency, that no 
blame may attach to me because my narrative often wanders 
wide from the limits of our own country, since I design this 
as a compendium of many histories, although, with a view to 
the larger portion of it, I have entitled it a History of the 
Kings of England. 


The history of the English, from their arrival in Britain to 
his own times, has been written by Bede, a man of singular 
learning and modesty, in a clear and captivating style. 
After him you wiU not, in my opinion, easily find any person 
who has attempted to compose in Latin the history of this 
people. Let others declare whether their researches in this 
respect have been, or are likely to be, more fortunate ; my 
own labour, though diligent in the extreme, has, down to this 
period, been without its reward. There, are, indeed, some 
notices of antiquity, written in the vernacular tongue after 
the manner of a chronicle,* and arranged according to the 
years of our Lord. By means of these alone, the times suc- 
ceeding this man have been rescued from obUvion : for of 
Elward,f a noble and illustrious man, who attempted to 
arrange these chronicles in Latin, and whose intention I 
could applaud if his language did not disgust me, it is 
better to be silent. Nor has it escaped my knowledge, that 
there is also a work of my Lord Eadmer,J written with a 
chastened elegance of style, in which, beginning from King 
Edgar, he has but hastily glanced at the times down to 
William the First : and thence, taking a freer range, gives a 
narrative, copious, and of great utiHty to the studious, until 
the death of Archbishop Kalph.§ Thus from the time of 
Bede there is a period of two hundred and twenty-three years 
left unnoticed in his history ; so that the regular series of 
time, unsupported by a connected relation, halts in the middle. 
This circumstance has induced me, as well out of love to my 

* This alludes to those invaluable records, the Saxon Chronicles. These, 
as originally compiled, have been already published in the present Series of 
Monkish Historians. 

t Elward, or Ethelwerd, was a noble Saxon, great-great-grandson of 
King Ethelred, brother of Alfred. He abridged and translated the Saxon 
Chronicle into Latin, published in the present Series. He lived apparentlr 
in the time of Edgar, towards the close of the tenth century. 

X Eadmer, a monk and precentor of Christ-Church, Canterbury, and pupil 
of Archbishop Anselm, together with a variety of other works, wrote " Hib- 
toria Novorum," or, a history of modern times, from a.d. 1066 to 1122. 

$ MS. Anselmi. Eadmer at first brought down his history to the death 
of Archbishop Anselm only, a.d. 1109, but altei wards continued it to the 
decease of Ralph, a.d. 1122. 

B 2 


country, as respect for the authority of those who have en- 
joined on me the undertaking, to fill up the chasm, and to 
season the crude materials with Roman art. And that the 
work may proceed with greater regularity, I shall cull some- 
what from Bede, whom I must often quote, glancing at a few 
facts, but omitting more. 

The First Book, therefore, contains a succinct account of 
the English, from the time of their descent on Britain, till 
that of King Egbert, who, after the different Princes had fallen 
by various ways, gained the monarchy of almost the whole 

But as among the English arose four powerful kingdoms, 
that is to say, of Kent, of the West Saxons, of the Northum- 
brians, and of the Mercians, of which I purpose severally to 
treat if I have leisure ; I shall begin with that which attained 
the earliest to maturity, and was also the first to decay. 
This I shall do more clearly, if I place the kingdoms of the 
East Angles, and of the East Saxons, after the others, as 
little meriting either my labours, or the regard of posterity. 

The Second Book will contain the chronological series of 
the Kings to the coming of the Normans. 

The three following Books will be employed upon the 
history of three successive kings, with the addition of what- 
ever, in their times, happened elsewhere, which, from its 
celebrity, may demand a more particular notice. This, then, 
is what I purpose, if the Divine favour shall smile on my 
undertaking, and carry me safely by those rocks of rugged 
diction, on which Elward, in his search after sounding and far- 
fetched phrases, so unhappily sufi*ered shipwreck. " Should 
any one, however," to use the poet's expression,* " peruse this 
work with sensible delight," I deem it necessary to acquaint 
him, that I vouch nothing for the truth of long past trans- 
actions, but the consonance of the time ; the veracity of the 
relation must rest with its authors. Wliatever I have re- 
corded of later times, I have either myself seen, or heard 
from credible authority. However, in either part, I pay but 
little respect to the judgment of my contemporaries : trust- 
ing that I shall gain with posterity, when love and hatred 
shall be no more, if not a reputation for eloquence, at least 
credit for diligence. 

* Virgilii Eel. Vr. V. 10. 





Of the arrival of the Angles, and of the Kings of Kent. [a.d. 449.] 

In the year of the incarnation of our Lord 449, Angles and 
Saxons first came into Britain ; and although the cause oi 
their arrival is universally known, it may not be improper 
here to subjoin it : and, that the design of my work may be 
the more manifest, to begin even from an earlier period. 
That Britain, compelled by Julius Ccesar to submit to the 
Koman power, was held in high estimation by that people, 
may be collected from their history, and be seen also in the 
ruins of their ancient buildings. Even their emperors, 
sovereigns of almost all the Avorld, eagerly embraced oppor- 
tunities of saihng hither, and of spending their days here. 
Finally, Severus and Constantius, two of their greatest 
princes, died upon the island, and were there interred with 
the utmost pomp. The former, to defend this province from 
the incursions of the barbarians, built his celebrated and 
well-known wall from sea to sea. The latter, a man, as they 
report, of courteous manners, left Constantine, his son by 
Helena, a tender of cattle,* a youth of great promise, his 

* Helena's origin has been much contested : Gibbon decides that she 
was daughter of an innkeeper. The word " Stabularia," literally implies 
an ostler- wench ; and it has been conjectured that it was applied to her, by 
the Jews and Gentiles, on account of her building a church on the spot 
where stood the stable in which our Lord was born. 

6 T7ILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. r. c. 1. 

heir. Constantine, greeted emperor by tlie army, led away, 
in an expedition destined to the continent, a numerous force 
of British soldiers ; by whose exertions, the war succeeding 
to his wishes, he gained in a short time the summit of power. 
For these veterans, when their toil was over, he founded a 
colony on the western coast of Gaul, where, to this day, their 
descendants, somewhat degenerate in language and manners 
from our own Britons, remain with wonderful increase.* 

In succeeding times, in this island, Maximus, a man well- 
fitted for command, had he not aspired to power in defiance of 
his oath, assumed the purple, as though compelled by the 
army, and preparing immediately to pass over into Gaul, he 
despoiled the province of almost all its military force. Not 
long after also, one Constantine, who had been elected em- 
peror on account of his name, drained its whole remaining 
warlike strength ; but both being slain, the one by Theodo- 
sius, the other by Honorius, they became examples of the 
instability of human greatness. Of the forces which had 
followed them, part shared the fate of their leaders ; the rest, 
after their defeat, fled to the continental Britons. Thus 
when the tyrants had left none but half-savages in the 
country, and, in the towns, those only who were given up to 
luxury, Britain, despoiled of the support of its youthfulf 
population, and bereft of every useful art, was for a long time 
exposed to the ambition of neighbouring nations. 

For immediately, by an excursion of the Scots and Picts, 
numbers of the people were slain, villages burnt, J towns de- 
stroyed, and everything laid waste by fire and sword. Part 
of the harassed islanders, who thought anything more ad- 
visable than contending in battle, fled for safety to the moun- 
tains ; others, burying their treasures in the earth, many of 
which are dug up in our own times, proceeded to Rome to ask 
assistance. The Romans, touched with pity, and deeming it 
above all things important to yield succour to their oppressed 
allies, twice lent their aid, and defeated the enemy. But at 
length, wearied with the distant voyage, they declined re- 
turning in future ; bidding them rather themselves not 

* Various periods have been assigned for the British settlement in 
Armorica, or Bretagne ; but the subject is still involved in great obscuritjV. 
t Some MSS. read juvenilis, others militaris. 
t Some MSS. read succensa. 


degenerate from the martial energy of their ancestors, but 
learn to defend their country with spirit, and with arms. 
They accompanied their advice with the plan of a wall, to be 
built for their defence ; the mode of keeping watch on the 
ramparts ; of sallying out against the enemy, should it be 
necessary, together with other duties of military discipline. 
After giving these admonitions, they departed, accompanied 
by the tears of the miserable inhabitants ; and Fortune, 
smiling on their departure, restored them to their friends and 
country. The Scots, learning the improbability of their re- 
turn, immediately began to make fresh and more frequent 
irruptions against the Britons ; to level their wall, to kiU the 
few opponents they met with, and to carry off considerable 
booty ; while such as escaped fled to the royal residence, 
imploring the protection of their sovereign. 

At this time Vortigern was King of Britain ; a man calcu- 
lated neither for the field nor the council, but wholly given 
up to the lusts of the flesh, the slave of every vice : a cha- 
racter of insatiable avarice, ungovernable pride, and polluted 
by his lusts. To complete the picture, as we read in the 
History of the Britons, he had defiled his own daughter, who 
was lured to the participation of such a crime by the hope of 
sharing his kingdom, and she had borne him a son. Regard- 
less of his treasures at this dreadful juncture, and wasting 
the resources of the kingdom in riotous living, he was awake 
only to the blandishments of abandoned women. Roused at 
length, however, by the clamours of the people, he summoned 
a council, to take the sense of his nobility on the state of 
public affairs. To be brief, it was unanimously resolved to 
invite over from Germany the Angles and Saxons, nations 
powerful in arms, but of a roving life. It was conceived 
that this would be a double advantage : for it was thought 
that, by their skill in war, these people would easily subdue 
their enemies ; and, as they hitherto had no certain habita- 
tion, would gladly accept even an unproductive soil, provided 
it afforded them a stationary residence. Moreover, that they 
could not be suspected of ever entertaining a design against 
the country, since the remembrance of this kindness would 
soften their native ferocity. This counsel was adopted, and 
ambassadors, men of rank, and worthy to represent . the 
country, were sent into Germany. 


The Germans, hearing that voluntarily offered, which 
they had long anxiously desired, readily obeyed the invita- 
tion ; their joy quickening their haste. Bidding adieu, 
therefore, to their native fields and the ties of kindi-ed, they 
spread their sails to Fortune, and, with a favouring breeze, 
arrived in Britain in three of those long vessels which they 
call " ceols."* At this and other times came over a mixed 
multitude from three of the German nations ; that is to say, 
the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. For almost all the country 
lying to the north of the British ocean, though divided into 
many provinces, is justly denominated Germany, from its 
germinating so many men. And as the pruner cuts off the 
more luxuriant branches of the tree to impart a livelier 
vigour to the remainder, so the inhabitants of this country 
assist their common parent by the expulsion of a part of 
their members, lest she should perish by giving sustenance 
to too numerous an offspring ; but in order to obviate dis- 
content, they cast lots who shall be compelled to migrate. 
Hence the men of this country have made a virtue of 
necessity, and, when driven from their native soil, they have 
gained foreign settlements by force of arms. The Vandals, 
for instance, who formerly over-ran Africa ; the Goths, who 
made themselves masters of Spain ; the Lombards, who, even 
at the present time, are settled in Italy ; and the Normans, 
who have given their own name to that part of Gaul which 
they subdued. From Germany, then, there first came into 
Britain, an inconsiderable number indeed, but well able to 
make up for their paucity by their courage. These were 
under the conduct of Hengist and Horsa, two brothers of 
suitable disposition, and of noble race in their own country. 
They were great-grandsons of the celebrated Woden, from 
whom almost all the royal families of these barbarous nations 
deduce their origin ; and to whom the nations of the Angles, 
fondly deifying him, have consecrated by immemorial super- 
stition the fourth day of the week, as they have the sixth to 
his wife Frea. Bede has related in what particular parts of 

* These are supposed to be long vessels, somewhat like galleys, and it 
would appear, as well from Brompton, col. 897, as from so small a number 
containing a body equal to a military enterprise like that described here and 
in other places, that they vere of considerable burden. 


Britain, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes,* fixed their habita- 
tions : my design, however, is not to dilate, though there 
may be abundance of materials for the purpose, but to touch 
only on what is necessary. 

The Angles were eagerly met on all sides upon their 
arrival : from the king they received thanks, from the people 
expressions of good- will. Faith was plighted on either side, 
and the Isle of Thanet appropriated for their residence. It 
was agreed, moreover, that they should exert their prowess 
in arms for the service of the country ; and, in return, 
receive a suitable reward from the people for whose safety 
they underwent such painful labours. Ere long, the Scots 
advanced, as usual, secure, as they supposed, of a great booty 
with very little difficulty. However, the Angles assailed 
them, and scarcely had they engaged, before they were put to 
flight, whilst the cavalry pursued and destroyed the fugitives. 
Contests of this kind were frequent, and victory constantly 
siding with the Angles, as is customary in human affairs, 
wliile success inflamed the courage of one party, and dread 
increased the cowardice of the other, the Scots in the end 
avoided nothing so cautiously as an engagement with them. 

In the meantime, Hengist, not less keen in perception 
than ardent in the field, with consent of Yortigern, sends 
back some of his followers to his own country, with the 
secret purpose, however, of representing the indolence of the 
king and people, the opulence of the island, and the prospect 
of advantage to new adventurers. Having executed their 
commission adi'oitly, in a short time they return with sixteen 
ships, bringing with them the daughter of Hengist ; a 
maiden, as we have heard, who might iustly be called the 
master-piece of nature and the admiration of mankind. At 
an entertainment, provided for them on their return, Hen- 
gist commanded his daughter to assume the office of cup- 
bearer, that she might gratify the eyes of the king as he sat 
at table. Nor was the design unsuccessful : for he, ever 
eager after female beauty, deeply smitten with the graceful- 

* Bede i. 15. The people of Kent and of the Isle of Wight were Jutes ; 
the East, South, and West Saxons, were Saxons ; and of the Angles came 
the East- Angles, Mid- Angles, Mercians, and Northumbrians. For the 
limits of the several kingdoms of the Heptarchy, see Chap. VI. The 
Cottonian MS. ('Claud, ix.) reads, Wichtis. 

10 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. [b. i. c. 1. 

ness of her form and the elegance of her motion, instantly- 
conceived a vehement desire for the possession of her person, 
and immediately proposed marriage to her father ; urging 
him to a measure to which he was already well inclined. 
Hengist, at first, kept up the artifice by a refusal ; stating, 
that so humble a connection was unworthy of a king : but, 
at last, appearing to consent with reluctance, he gave way to 
his importunities, and accepted, as a reward, the whole of 
Kent, where all justice had long since declined under the 
administration of its Gourong (or Viceroy), who, like the 
other princes of the island, was subject to the monarchy of 
Yortigern. Not satisfied with this liberality, but abusing 
the imprudence of the king, the barbarian persuaded him to 
send for his son and brother, men of warlike talents, from 
Germany, pretending, that he would defend the province on 
the east, while they might curb the Scots on the northern 
frontier. The king assenting, they sailed round Britain, and 
arriving at the Orkney Isles, the inhabitants of which they 
involved in the same calamity with the Picts and Scots, at 
this and after times, they finally settled in the northern part 
of the island, now called Northumbria. Still no one there 
assumed the royal title or insignia till the time of Ida, from 
whom sprang the regal line of the Northumbrians ; but of 
this hereafter. We will now return to the present subject. 

Vortimer, the son of Vortigern, thinking it unnecessary 
longer to dissemble that he saw himself and his Britons cir- 
cumvented by the craft of the Angles, turned his thoughts 
to their expulsion, and stimulated his father to the same 
attempt. At his suggestion, the truce was broken seven 
years after their arrival ; and during the ensuing twenty, 
they frequently fought partial battles,* and, as the chronicle 
relates, four gf-neral actions. From the first conflict they 
parted on equal terms : one party lamenting the loss of 
Horsa, the brother of Hengist ; the other, that of Katigis, 
another of Vortigern's sons. The Angles, having the ad- 
vantage in all the succeeding encounters, peace was con- 
cluded ; Vortimer, who had been the instigator of the war, 

* At Aylesford, a.d. 455 ; at Crayford, 457 ; at Wippedsfleet (supposed, 
but very doubtful, Ebbsfleet, in Thanet), 465 ; and the fourth, a.d. 473, 
the place not mentioned. See Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 465. 


and differed far from the indolence of liis father, perished 
prematurely, or he would have governed the kingdom in a 
noble manner, had God permitted. When he died, the 
British strength decayed, and all hope fled from them ; and 
they would soon have perished altogether, had not Ambro- 
sius, the sole survivor of the Eomans, who became monarch 
after Yortigern, quelled the presumptuous barbarians by the 
powerful aid of warlike Arthur. It is of this Arthur that 
the Britons fondly tell so many fables, even to the present 
day ; a man worthy to be celebrated, not by idle fictions, but 
by authentic liistory. He long upheld the sinking state, and 
roused the broken spirit of liis countrymen to war. Finally, 
at the siege of Mount Badon,* relying on an image of the 
Virgin, which he had affixed to his armour, he engaged nine 
hundi'ed of the enemy, single-handed, and dispersed them 
^vith incredible slaughter. On the other side, the Angles, 
after various revolutions of fortune, filled up their thinned 
battalions with fresh supplies of their countrymen ; rushed 
with greater courage to the conflict, and extended themselves 
by degrees, as the natives retreated, over the whole island : 
for the counsels of God, in whose hand is every change of 
empire, did not oppose their career. But this was effected 
in process of time ; for while Vortigern lived, no new at- 
tempt was made against them. About this time, Hengist, 
from that bad quahty of the human heart, which grasps after 
more in proportion to what it already possesses, by a pre- 
concerted piece of deception, invited his son-in-law, with 
three hundi-ed of his followers, to an entertainment ; and 
when, by more than usual compotations, he had excited them 
to clamour, he began, purposely, to taunt them severally, with 
sarcastic raillery : this had the desired effect, of making them 
first quarrel, and then come to blows. Thus the Britons 
were basely murdered to a man, and breathed their last amid 
their cups. The king himself, made captive, purchased 
his liberty at the price of three provinces. After this, 
Hengist died, in the thirty-ninth year after his arrival ; he 

* Said to be BannesdoM-n, near Bath. Giraldus Cambrensis says, the 
image of the Virgin was fixed on the inside of Arthur's shield, that he might 
kiss it in battle. Bede erroneously ascribes this event to a.d. 493. (Bedi^'* 
Ecclesiastical History, b. i. c. 6.) 

12 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. i. c. 1. 

was a man, who urging his success not less by artifice than 
courage, and giving free scope to his natural ferocity, pre- 
ferred effecting his purpose rather by cruelty than by 
kindness. He left a son named Eisc;* who, more intent 
on defending, than enlarging, his dominions, never exceeded 
the paternal bounds. At the expiration of twenty-four years, 
he had for his successors, his son Otha, and Otha's son, Er- 
menric, who, in their manners, resembled him, rather than 
their grandfather and great grandfather. To the times of 
both, the Chronicles assign fifty-three years; but whether 
they reigned singly, or together, does not appear. 

After them Ethelbert, the son of Ermenic, reigned fifty- 
thi-ee years according to the Chronicle ; but fifty-six accord- 
ing to Bede. The reader must determine how this difference 
is to be accounted for; as I think it sufficient to have apprized 
him of it, I shall let the matter rest.f In the infancy of his 
reign, he was such an object of contempt to the neighbouring 
kings, that, defeated in two battles, he could scarcely defend 
his frontier ; afterwards, however, when to his riper years he 
had added a more perfect knowledge of war, he quickly, by 
successive victories, subjugated every kingdom of the Angles, 
with the exception of the Northumbrians. And, in order to 
obtain foreign connections, he entered into affinity with the 
king of France, by marrying his daughter Bertha. And 
now by this connection with the Franks, the nation, hitherto 
savage and wedded to its own customs, began daily to divest 
itself of its rustic propensities and incline to gentler manners. 
To this was added the very exemplary life of bishop Luid- 
hard, who had come over with the queen, by wliich, though 
silently, he allured the king to the knowledge of Christ our 
Lord. Hence it arose, that his mind, already softened, easily 
yielded to the preaching of the blessed Augustine ; and he 
was the first of all his race who renounced the errors of 
paganism, that he might obscure, by the glory of his faith, 

* According to Sprott, Hengist died in 488, and was succeeded by his 
son Octa, vel Osca. Osca died a.d. 408, and Esc, his son, ascended the 
throne. In the year 522 Ermenric, the father of king Ethelbert, reigned. 
Ethelbert became king of Kent in 558. 

f The difference seems to have arisen from carelessness in the scribe; as 
the Saxon Chronicle states him to have ascended the throne a.d. 560, and 
to have died 616: which is exactly fifty-six years, although it asserts him to 
liiive reigned only 53. 

A.D. 618.] EDBALD. 13 

those whom lie surpassed in power. TMs, indeed, is spotless 
nobility ; this, exalted virtue ; to excel in worth those whom 
you exceed in rank. Besides, extending his care to pos- 
terity, he enacted laws, in his native tongue, in which he 
appointed rewards for the meritorious, and opposed severer 
restraints to the abandoned, leaving nothing doubtful for the 

Ethelbert died in the twenty-first year after he had em- 
braced the Christian faith, leaving the diadem to his son 
Edbald. As soon as he was freed from the restraints of 
paternal awe, he rejected Christianity, and overcame the 
virtue of his stepmother. f But the severity of the divine 
mercy opposed a barrier to his utter destruction : for the 
princes, whom his father had subjugated, immediately re- 
belled, he lost a part of his dominions, and was perpetually 
haunted by an evil spirit, whereby he paid the penalty of 
his unbehef. Laurentius, the successor of Augustine, was 
offended at these transactions, and after having sent away 
his companions, was meditating his own departure from the 
country, but having received chastisement from God, he was 
induced to change his resolution.;}; The king conversing with 
him on the subject, and finding his assertions confirmed by 
his stripes, became easily converted, accepted the grace of 
Christianity, and broke off his incestuous intercourse. But, 
that posterity might be impressed with the singular punish- 
ment due to apostacy, it was with difliculty he could main- 
tain his hereditary dominions, much less rival the eminence 
of his father. For the remainder of his life, his faith was 
sound, and he did nothing to sully his reputation. The 
monastery also, which his father had founded without the 
waUs of Canterbury, § he ennobled with large estates, and 
sumptuous presents. The praises and merits of both these 
men ought ever to be proclaimed, and had in honour by the 
English ; because they allowed the Christian faith to acquire 

* See Wilkins's " Leges Anglo-Saxonicae," and the Textus RofFensis. 

f The name of the second queen of Ethelbert is not mentioned, pro- 
bably on account of this incest. 

X St. Peter, it is said, appeared to Laurentius at night, and reproaching 
him for his cowardice, severely chastised him with a scourge; the marks of 
which had the effect here mentioned the next day. Bede ii. 6. According 
to Sprott, St. Laurentius became archbishop of Canterbury, a.d. 610. 

§ St. Augustine's, Canterbury, completed, according to Sprott, a.d. 663. 

14 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. i. c 1. 

Strength, in England, by patient listening and willingness to 
believe. Who can contemplate, without satisfaction, the just 
and amiable answer which Bede makes king Ethelbert to 
have given to the first preaching of Augustine ? " That he 
could not, thus early, embrace a new doctrine and leave the 
accustomed worship of his country ; but that, nevertheless, 
persons who had undertaken so long a journey for the pur- 
pose of kindly communicating to the Angles what they 
deemed an inestimable benefit, far from meeting with ill- 
treatment, ought rather to be allowed full liberty to preach, 
and also to receive the amplest maintenance." He fully kept 
his promise ; and at length the truth of Christianity becom- 
ing apparent by degrees, himself and all his subjects were 
admitted into the number of the faithful. And what did the 
other ? Though led away at first, more by the lusts of the 
flesh than perverseness of heart, yet he paid respect to the 
virtuous conduct of the prelates, although he neglected their 
faith; and lastly, as I have related, was easily converted 
through the sufferings of Laurentius, and became of infinite 
service to the propagation of Christianity. Both, then, were 
laudable : both deserved high encomiums ; for the good work, 
so nobly begun by the one, was as kindly fostered by the 

To him, after a reign of twenty-four years, succeeded 
Erconbert, his son, by Emma, daughter of the king of 
France. He reigned an equal number of years with his 
father, but under happier auspices ; alike remarkable for 
piety towards God, and love to his country. For his grand- 
father, and father, indeed, adopted our faith, but neglected to 
destroy their idols ; whilst he, tliinking it derogatory to his 
royal zeal not to take the readiest mode of annihilating openly 
what they only secretly condemned, levelled every temple of 
their gods to the ground, that not a trace of their paganism 
might be handed down to posterity. This was nobly done : 
for the mass of the people would be reminded of their super- 
stition, so long as they could see the altars of their deities. 
In order, also, that he might teach his subjects, who were 
too much given to sensual indulgence, to accustom them- 
selves to temperance, he enjoined the solemn fast of Lent 
to be observed throughout his dominions. This was an 
extraordinary act for the king to attempt in those times: 

A.D. 664— C86.] EGBERT LOTHERE. 15 

but he was a man whom no blandishments of luxury could 
enervate ; no anxiety for power seduce from the worship of 
God. Wherefore he was protected by the favour of the 
Almighty; every thing, at home and abroad, succeeded to 
his wishes, and he grew old in uninterrupted tranquillity. 
His daughter Ercongotha, a child worthy of such a parent, 
and emulating her father in virtuous qualities, became a 
shining light in the monastery of Kalas in Gaul.* 

His son Egbert, retaining his father's throne for nine 
years, did nothing memorable in so short a reign ; unless 
indeed it be ascribed to the glory of this period, that Theo- 
doref the archbishop, and Adrian the abbat, two consummate 
scholars, came into England in his reign. Were not the sub- 
ject already trite, I should willingly record what light they 
shed upon the Britons ; how on one side the Greeks, and on 
the other the Latins, emulously contributed their knowledge 
to the public stock, and made this island, once the nurse of 
tyrants, the constant residence of philosophy : but this and 
every other merit of the times of Egbert is clouded by his 
horrid crime, of either destroying, or permitting to be de- 
stroyed, Elbert and Egelbright, his nephews. | 

To Egbert succeeded his brother Lothere, who began his 
reign with unpropitious omens. For he was harassed during 
eleven years by Edric, the son of Egbert, and engaged in 
many civil conflicts which terminated with various success, 
until he was ultimately pierced through the body with a dart, 
and died while they were applying remedies to the wound. 
Some say, that both the brothers perished by a premature 
death as a just return for their cruelty ; because Egbert, as 
I have related, murdered the innocent children of his uncle ; 
and Lothere ridiculed the notion of holding them up as 
martyrs : although the former had lamented the action, and 
had granted a part of the Isle of Thanet to the mother of 
his nephews, for the purpose of building a monastery. 

♦ Chelles, near Paris. 

f Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, 
and a prelate of great learning; but it being apprehended by Pope Vitalian 
that he might rather incline to the doctrines of the Greek Church, Adrian 
was sent with him, as a kind of superintendent, and was appointed abbat 
of St. Augustine's. 

:J: See book ii. chap. 1 3, " but this and every other," &c. Some editions 
omit this passage altogether. 


Nor did Edric long boast the prosperous state of his 
government ; for within two years he was despoiled both of 
kingdom and of life, and left his country to be torn in pieces 
by its enemies. Immediately Csedwalla, with his brother 
Mull, in other respects a good and able man, but breathing 
an inextinguishable hatred against the people of Kent, made 
vigorous attempts upon the province ; supposing it must 
easily surrender to his views, as it had lately been in the 
enjoyment of long continued peace, but at that time was torn 
with intestine war. He found, however, the inhabitants by 
no means unprepared or void of courage, as he had expected. 
For, after many losses sustained in the towns and villages, at 
length they rushed with spirit to the conflict. They gained 
the victory in the contest, and having put Csedwalla to flight, 
drove his brother Mull into a little cottage, which they set 
on fire. Thus, wanting courage to sally out against the 
enemy, the fire gained uncontrolled power, and he perished 
in the flames. Nevertheless Caedwalla ceased not his efforts, 
nor retired from the province ; but consoled himself for his 
losses by repeatedly ravaging the district ; however, he left 
the avenging of this injury lo Ina, his successor, as will be 
related in its place. 

In this desperate state of the affairs of Kent, there was a 
void of about six years in the royal succession. In the 
seventh, Withred, the son of Egbert, having repressed the 
malevolence of his countrymen by his activity, and purchased 
peace from his enemies by money, was chosen king by the 
inhabitants, who entertained great and well-founded hopes of 
him. He was an admirable ruler at home, invincible in 
war, and a truly pious follower of the Christian faith, for he 
extended its power to the utmost. And, to complete his felicity, 
after a reign of thirty-three years, he died in extreme old age, 
which men generally reckon to be their greatest happiness, 
leaving his three children his heirs. These were Egbert, 
Ethelbert, and Alric, and they reigned twenty-three, eleven, 
and thirty-four years successively, without deviation from 
the excellent example and institutions of their father, except 
that Ethelbert, by the casual burning of Canterbury, and 
Alric, by an unsuccessful battle with the Mercians, consider- 
ably obscured the glory of their reigns. So it is that, if any 
thing disgraceful occurs, it is not concealed ; if any thing 

A.D. 774.-S23.] DOWNFALL OF KENT. 17 

fortunate, it is not sufficiently noticed in the Clironicles ; 
whether it be done designedly, or whether it arise from that 
bad quality of the human mind, which makes gratitude for 
good transient ; whereas the recollection of e\dl remains for 
ever. After these men the noble stock of kings began to 
wither, the royal blood to flow cold. Then every daring 
adventurer, who had acquired riches by his eloquence, or 
whom faction had made formidable, aspired to the kingdom, 
and disgraced the ensigns of royalty. Of these, Edbert 
otherwise called Pren, after having governed Kent two years, 
over-rating his power, was taken prisoner in a war with the 
Mercians, and loaded with chains. But being set at liberty 
by his enemies, though not received by his own subjects, it 
is uncertain by what end he perished. Cuthred, heir to4'he 
same faction and calamity, reigned, in name only, eight years. 
Next Baldred, a mere abortion of a king, after having for 
eighteen years more properly possessed, than governed the 
kingdom, went into exile, on his defeat by Egbert, king of 
the West Saxons. Thus the kingdom of Kent, which, from 
the year of our Lord 449, had continued 375 years, became 
annexed to another. And since by following the royal line 
of the first kingdom which arose among the Angles, I have 
elicited a spark, as it were, from the embers of antiquity, I 
shall now endeavour to throw light on the kingdom of the 
West Saxons, which, though after a considerable lapse of 
time, was the next that sprang up. While others were 
neglected and wasted away, this flourished with uncon- 
querable vigour, even to the coming of the Normans ; and, if 
I may be permitted the expression, with greedy jaws 
swallowed up the rest. Wherefore, after tracing this 
kingdom in detail down to Egbert, I shall briefly, for fear of 
disgusting my readers, subjoin some notices of the two 
remaining ; this will be a suitable termination to the first 
book, and the second will continue the history of the West 
Saxons alone. 


Of the kings of the West Saxons, [a.d. 495.] 

The kingdom of the West Saxons, — and one more magnificent 
or lasting Britain never beheld, — sprang from Cerdic, and soon 

18 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. t. c. 2. 

increased to great importance. He was a German by nation, 
of the noblest race, being the tenth from Woden, and, having 
nurtured his ambition in domestic broils, determined to leave 
his native land and extend his fame by the sword. Having 
formed this daring resolution he communicated his design to 
Cenric his son, who closely followed his father's track to 
glory, and with his concurrence transported his forces into 
Britain in five ceols. This took place in the year of our 
Saviour's incarnation 495, and the eighth after the death of 
Hengist. Coming into action with the Britons the very day 
of his arrival, this experienced soldier soon defeated an 
undisciplined multitude, and compelled them to fly. By this 
success he obtained perfect security in future for himself, as 
well as peace for the inhabitants of those parts. For they 
never dared after that day to attack him, but voluntarily 
submitted to his dominion. Nevertheless he did not waste 
his time in indolence ; but, on the contrary, extending his 
conquests on all sides, by the time he had been twenty-four 
years in the island, he had obtained the supremacy of the 
western part of it, called West- Saxony. He died after enjoy- 
ing it sixteen years, and his whole kingdom, with the exception 
of the isle of Wight, descended to his son. This, by the 
royal munificence, became subject to his nephew, Withgar ; 
who was as dear to his uncle by the ties of kindred, for he 
was his sister's son, as by his skill in war, and formed a 
noble principality in the island, where he was afterwards 
splendidly interred. Cenric moreover, who was as illustrious 
as his father, after twenty-six years, bequeathed the kingdom, 
somewhat enlarged, to his son Ceawlin. 

The Chronicles extol the singular valour of this man in 
battle, so as to excite a degree of envious admiration ; for he 
was the astonishment of the Angles, the detestation of the 
Britons, and was eventually the destruction of both. I shall 
briefly subjoin some extracts from them. Attacking Ethel- 
bert king of Kent, who was a man in other respects laudable, 
but at that time was endeavouring from the consciousness of 
his family's dignity to gain the ascendency, and, on this 
account, making too eager incursions on the territories of his 
neighbour, he routed his troops and forced him to retreat. 
The Britons, who, in the times of his father and grandfather, 
had escaped destruction either by a show of submission, or 

^.D. 577.-626.] CYNEGILS AND CUICBELM. . 19 

by tlie strength of their fortifications at Gloucester, Ciren- 
cester, and Bath, he now pursued with ceaseless rancour ; 
ejected them from their cities, and chased them into 
mountainous and woody districts, as at the present day. 
But about this time, as some unluckly throw of the dice in 
the table of human life perpetually disappoints mankind, his 
mihtary successes were clouded by domestic calamity : his 
brother Cutha met an untimely death, and he had a son 
of the same name taken off in battle ; both young men of 
great expectation, whose loss he frequently lamented as a 
severe blow to his happiness. Finally, in his latter days, 
himself, banished from his kingdom, presented a spectacle, 
pitiable even to his enemies. For he had sounded, as it 
were, the trumpet of his own detestation on all sides, and 
the Angles as well as the Britons conspiring against him, his 
forces were destroyed at Wodensdike ; * he lost his kingdom 
thirty-one years after he had gained it ; went into exile, 
and shortly after died. The floating reins of government 
were then directed by his nephews, the sons of Cutha, that 
is to say, Cebic during six, Ceolwulf during fourteen years : 
of these the inferior with respect to age, but the more 
excellent in spirit, passed all his days in war, nor ever 
neglected, for a moment, the protection and extension of his 

After him, the sons of Celric, Cynegils and Cuichelm, 
jointly put on the ensigns of royalty ; both active, both 
contending with each other only in mutual ofiices of kind- 
ness ; insomuch, that to their contemporaries they were a 
miracle of concord very unusual amongst princes, and to 
posterity a proper example. It is difficult to say whether 
their courage or their moderation exceeded in the numberless 
contests in wliich they engaged either against the Britons, or 
against Penda, king of the Mercians : a man, as will be 
related in its place, wonderfully expert in the subtleties of 
wai- ; and who, overpassing the Hmits of his own territory, 
in an attempt to add Cirencester to his possessions, being 
unable to withstand the power of these united kings, escaped 
with only a few followers. A considerable degree of guilt 
indeed attaches to Cuichelm, for attempting to take off, by the 
hands of an assassin, Edwin king of the Northumbrians, a 
* Wansdike, in Wiltsliire. 

c 2 

20 WILLIAM OF IIALMESBURY. [b. i. c. 2. 

man of acknowledged prudence. Yet, if the heathen maxim, 

Who asks if fraud or force availed the foe ? * 

be considered, he will be readily excused, as having done 
nothing uncommon, in wishing to get rid, by whatever means, 
of a rival encroaching on his power. For he had formerly 
lopped off much from the West Saxon empire, and now 
receiving fresh ground of offence, and his ancient enmity 
reviving, he inflicted heavy calamities on that people. The 
kings, however, escaped, and were, not long after, enlightened 
with the heavenly doctrine, by the means of St. Birinus the 
bishop, in the twenty-fifth year of their reign, and the 
fortieth after the coming of the blessed Augustine, the 
apostle of the Angles. Cynegils, veiling his princely pride, 
condescended to receive immediately the holy rite of baptism : 
Cuichelm resisted for a time, but warned, by the sickness of 
his body, not to endanger the salvation of his soul, he became 
a sharer in his brother's piety, and died the same year. 
Cynegils departed six years afterwards, in the thirty-first 
year of his reign, enjoying the happiness of a long-extended 

Kenwalk his son succeeded : in the beginning of his reign, 
to be compared only to the worst of princes ; but, in the 
succeeding and latter periods, a rival of the best. The 
moment the young man became possessed of power, wantoning 
in regal luxury and disregarding the acts of his father, he 
abjured Christianity and legitimate marriage ; but being 
attacked and defeated by Penda, king of Mercia, whose 
sister he had repudiated, he fled to the king of the East 
Angles. Here, by a sense of his own calamities and by the 
perseverance of his host, he was once more brought back to 
the Christian faith ; and after three years, recovering his 
strength and resuming his kingdom, he exhibited to his 
subjects the joyful miracle of his reformation. So valiant 
was he, that, he who formerly was unable to defend his own 
territories, now extended his dominion on every side ; 
totally defeating in two actions the Britons, furious 
with the recollection of their ancient liberty, and in conse- 
quence perpetually meditating resistance ; first, at a place 
called Witgeornesburgjj" and then at a mountain named 

* Virgil, ^n. ii. S90. f Bradford on Avon. See Sax. Chron. a.d. 652. 


Pene ; * and again, avenging the injury of his father on 
Wulf here, the son of Penda, he deprived him of the greatest 
part of his kingdom : moreover he was so religious, that, 
first of aU his race, he built, for those times, a most beautiful 
church at Winchester, on which site afterwards was founded 
the episcopal see with still more skilful magnificence. 

But since we have arrived at the times of Kenwalk, and 
the proper place occurs for mentioning the monastery of 
Glastonbury, f I shall trace from its very origin the rise and 
progress of that church as far as I am able to discover it 
from the mass of evidences. It is related in annals of good 
credit that Lucius, king of the Britons, sent to Pope Eleu- 
therius, thirteenth in succession from St. Peter, to entreat, 
that he would dispel the darkness of Britain by the splendour 
of Christian instruction. This surely was the commendable 
deed of a magnanimous prince, eagerly to seek that faith, the 
mention of which had barely reached him, at a time when it 
was an object of persecution to almost every king and people 
to whom it was offered. In consequence, preachers, sent by 
Eleutherius, came into Britain, the effects of whose labours 
will remain for ever, although the rust of antiquity may have 
obliterated their names. By these was built the ancient 
church of St. Mary of Glastonbury, as faithful tradition has 
handed down through decaying time. Moreover there are 
documents of no small credit, which have been discovered in 
certain places to the following effect : " No other hands than 
those of the disciples of Christ erected the church of 
Glastonbury." Nor is it dissonant from probability : for if 
Philip, the Apostle, preached to the Gauls, as Freculphus 
relates in the fourth chapter of his second book, it may be 
believed that he also planted the word on this side of the 
channel also. But that I may not seem to balk the 
expectation of my readers by vain imaginations, leaving aU 
doubtful matter, I shall proceed to the relation of substantial 

* Pen, in Somersetshire. 

t Malmesbiuy wrote a History of Glastonbury, which is printed in 
Gale's Collection, vol. iii. and by Heame, in the History of Glastonbuiy, 
and from this work he extracts this account. Sharpe gives it [from " But 
since," &c. to " character so munificent" in page 28, line 2], in a note as a 
various reading of one of the MSS. The note occupies the greater part 
of seven pages from 25 to 31 in Sharpe's original volume. 

22 ' WILLIAM OP MALMESBURT. [b. i. c. 2. 

The church of which we are speaking, from its antiquity 
called by the Angles, by way of distinction, " Ealde Chirche,'' 
that is, the " Old Church," of wattle-work, at first, savoured 
somewhat of heavenly sanctity even from its very foundation, 
and exhaled it over the whole country ; claiming superior 
reverence, though the structure was mean. Hence, here 
arrived whole tribes of the lower orders, thronging every 
path ; here assembled the opulent divested of their pomp ; 
and it became the crowded residence of the religious and 
the literary. For, as we have heard from men of old time, 
here Gildas, an historian neither unlearned nor inelegant, to 
whom the Britons are indebted for whatever notice they 
obtain among other nations, captivated by the sanctity of the 
place, took up his abode for a series of years.* This church, 
then, is certainly the oldest I am acquainted with in 
England, and from this circumstance derives its name. In 
it are preserved the mortal remains of many saints, some of 
whom we shall notice in our progress, nor is any corner of 
the church destitute of the ashes of the holy. The very 
floor, inlaid with polished stone, and the sides of the altar, 
and even the altar itself above and beneath are laden with 
the multitude of relics. Moreover in the pavement may be 
remarked on every side stones designedly interlaid in 
triangles and squares, and figured with lead, under which if 
I believe some sacred enigma to be contained, I do no 
injustice to religion. The antiquity, and multitude of its 
saints, have endued the place with so much sanctity, that, at 
night, scarcely any one presumes to keep vigil there, or, 
during the day, to spit upon its floor : he who is conscious of 
pollution shudders throughout his whole frame : no one ever 
brought hawk or horses within the confines of the neigh- 
bouring cemetery, who did not depart injured either in them 
or in himself. Within the memory of man, all persons who, 
before undergoing the ordeal f of fire or water, there put up 

* There is a Life of Gildas, written not long after this history, by Caradoc 
of Lancarvon, in which we are told, that, while he was residing at Glaston- 
bury, a prince of that country carried off Arthur's queen and lodged her 
there ; that Arthur immediately besieged it, but, through the mediation of 
the abbat, and of Gildas, consented, at length, to receive his wife again and 
to depart peaceably. 

+ The ordeal was an appeal to heaven to decide immediately on the 
justice of the cause. There were many modes of this whimsical trial ; as 


their petitions, exulted in their escape, one only excepted : if 
any person erected a building in its vicinity, which by its 
shade obstructed the light of the church, it forthwith became 
a ruin. And it is sufficiently evident, that, the men of that 
province had no oath more frequent, or more sacred, than to 
swear by the Old Church, fearing the swiftest vengeance on 
their perjury in this respect. The truth of what I have 
asserted, if it be dubious, will be supported by testimony in 
the book which I have written, on the antiquity of the said 
church, according to the series of years. 

In the meantime it is clear, that the depository of so 
many saints may be deservedly styled an heavenly sanctuary 
upon earth. There are numbers of documents, though I 
abstain from mentioning them for fear of causing weariness, 
to prove how extremely venerable this place was held by the 
chief persons of the country, who there more especially chose 
to await the day of resurrection under the protection of the 
mother of God. Willingly would I declare the meaning of 
those pyramids, which are almost incomprehensible to all, 
could I but ascertain the truth. These, situated some few 
feet from the church, border on the cemetery of the monks. 
That which is the loftiest and nearest the church, is twenty- 
eight feet high and has five stories : this, though threatening 
ruin from its extreme age, possesses nevertheless some traces 
of antiquity, which may be clearly read though not perfectly 
understood. In the liighest story is an image in a pontifical 
habit. In the next a statue of regal dignity, and the letters. 
Her Sexi, and Blisperh. In the third, too, are the names, 
Pencrest, Bantomp, Pinepegn. In the fourth. Bate, Pulfred, 
and Eanfled. In the fifth, wliich is the lowest, there is an 
image, and the words as follow, Logor, Peslicas, and Breg- 
den, Spelpes, Highingendes Beam. The . other pyramid is 
twenty-six feet high and has four stories, in which are read, 
Kentwin, Hedda the bishop, and Bregored and Beorward. 
The meaning of these I do not hastily decide, but I shrewdly 
conjecture that within, in stone coffins, are contained the 

by handling hot iron, plunging the arm into hot water, throwing the accused 
into water, &c. If, after three days, the party exhibited no mark of 
burning in the two former ; or if he did not sink in the latter experiment, 
he was considered innocent. The whole was conducted with great solem- 
nity ; the ritual may be seen in Spelman, voce Ordalium. 

24 WILLIA3I OP aiALMESBUnr. [B. I. c. 2. 

bones of those persons whose names are inscribed without.* 
At least Logor is said to imply the person from whom Log- 
peresbeorh formerly took its name, which is now called Mon- 
tacute; Bregden, from whom is derived Brentknolle and 
Brentmarsh; Bregored and Beorward were abbats of that 
place in the time of the Britons ; of whom, and of others 
which occur, I shall henceforward speak more circumstan- 
tially. For my history will now proceed to disclose the suc- 
cession of abbats, and what was bestowed on each, or on the 
monastery, and by what particular king. 

And first, I shall briefly mention St. Patrick, from whom 
the series of our records dawns. While the Saxons were 
disturbing the peace of the Britons, and the Pelagians as- 
saulting their faith, St. Germanus of Auxerre assisted them 
against both; routing the one by the chorus of Hallelujah,'!' 
and hurling down the other by the thunder of the Evan- 
gelists and Apostles. Thence returning to his own country, 
he summoned Patrick to become his inmate, and after a few 
years, sent him, at the instance of Pope Celestine, to preach 
to the Irish. Whence it is written in the Chronicles, "In 
the year of our Lord's incarnation 425, St. Patrick is or- 
dained to L-eland by Pope Celestine." Also, "In the year 
433 Ireland is converted to the faith of Chi'ist by the preach- 
ing of St. Patrick, accompanied by many miracles." In con- 
sequence executing his appointed office with diligence, and in 
his latter days returning to his own country, he landed in 
Cornwall, from his altar, J which even to tliis time is held in 
high veneration by the inhabitants for its sanctity and effi- 
cacy in restoring the infirm. Proceeding to Glastonbury, 
and there becoming monk, and abbat, after some years he 
paid the debt of nature. All doubt of the truth of this 

* The Saxon mode of interment appears frequently to have been under 
jpyramids or obelisks. See Anglia Sacra, ii. 110. 

f St. Germanus drew up a body of his new converts in a valley surrounded 
on every side by mountains, and, on the approach of their enemies, ordered 
that on a given signal, all should shout " Hallelujah." The sudden sound, 
being reverberated by the surrounding mountains, struck their foes with 
such a panic, that they instantly fled. See Bede, Hist. Eccl. b. i. c. 20. 

X Patrick is said to have floated over, from Ireland, on this altar, and to 
have landed near Padstow in Cornwall. Gough's Camden, i. 19. Malmes- 
bury appears to have been misled by the Glastonbury historian, so as to con- 
found St. Patrick with St. Petrock. From the latter, the town of Padstow de- 
rives its name, as is proved by Whitaker, in his Ancient Cathedral of Cornwall. 

A. D. 425— 474.] DEATH OF ST. PATEICK. 25 

assertion is removed by the vision of a certain brother, who, 
after the saint's death, when it had frequently become a 
question, through decay of evidence, whether he really was 
monk and abbat there, had the fact confirmed by the follow- 
ing oracle. When asleep he seemed to hear some person 
reading, after many of his miracles, the words which follow 
— " this man then was adorned by the sanctity of the metro- 
politan pall, but afterwards was here made monk and abbat." 
He added, moreover, as the brother did not give implicit 
credit to him, that he could show what he had said inscribed 
in golden letters. Patrick died in the year of his age 111, 
of our Lord's incarnation 472, being the forty-seventh year 
after he was sent into Ii-eland. He lies on the right side of 
the altar in the old church : indeed the care of posterity has 
enshrined his body in silver. Hence the Msh have an an- 
cient usage of frequenting the place to kiss the rehcs of their 
patron. Wherefore the report is extremely prevalent that 
both St. Indract and St. Briget, no mean inhabitants of 
Ireland, formerly came over to this spot. Whether Briget 
returned home or died at Glastonbury is not sufficiently 
ascertained, though she left here some of her ornaments; 
that is to say, her necklace, scrip, and implements for em- 
broidering, which are yet shown in memory of her sanctity, 
and are efficacious in curing divers diseases. In the course 
of my narrative it will appear that St. Indract, with seven 
companions, was martyi-ed near Glastonbury, and afterwards 
interred in the old church.* 

Benignus succeeded Patrick in the government of the 
abbey ; but for how long, remains in doubt. Who he was, 
and how called in the vernacular tongue, the verses of his 
epitaph at Ferramere express, not inaptly : 

Beneath this marble Beon's ashes lie, 
Once rev'rend abbat of this monastery : 
Saint Patrick's servant, as the Irish frarae 
The legend-tale, and Beon was his name. 

The wonderful works both of his former life, and since his 
recent translation into the greater church, proclaim the sin- 

* On their return from a pilgrimage to Rome they designed visiting 
Glastonbury, out of respect to St. Patrick; and filled their scrips with 
parsley and various other seeds, which they purposed carrying to Ire- 
land, but their staves being tipped with brass, which was mistaken for gold, 
they were murdered for the supposed booty. 

26 WILLIAM: OF MAiMESBURT. [b. i- c 2. 

gular grace of God wHcli lie anciently possessed, and wluch 
he still retains. 

The esteem in which David, archbishop of Menevia, held 
this place, is too notorious to require repeating. He esta- 
blished the antiquity and sanctity of the church by a divine 
oracle ; for purposing to dedicate it, he came to the spot with 
his- seven suffragan bishops, and every thing being prepared 
for the due celebration of the solemnity, on the night, as he 
purposed, preceding it, he gave way to profound repose. 
When all his senses were steeped in rest, he beheld the Lord 
Jesus standing near, and mildly inquiring the cause of his 
arrival ; and on his immediately disclosing it, the Lord di- 
verted him from his purpose by sayings " That the church 
had been already dedicated by himself in honour of his Mo- 
ther, and that the ceremony was not to be profaned by hu- 
man repetition." With these words he seemed to bore the 
palm of his hand with Ms finger, adding, " That this was a 
sign for him not to reiterate what liimself had done before. 
But that, since his design savoured more of piety than of 
temerity, his punishment should not be prolonged : and 
lastly, that on the following morning, when he should repeat 
the words of the mass, ' With him, and by him, and in liim,' 
his health should return to him undiminished." The prelate, 
awakened by these terrific appearances, as at the moment he 
grew pale at the purulent matter, so afterwards he hailed the 
truth of the prediction. But that he might not appear to 
have done nothing, he quickly built and dedicated another 
church. Of this celebrated and incomparable man, I am at 
a loss to decide, whether he closed his hfe in this place, or at 
his own cathedral. For they affirm that he is with St. Pa- 
trick ; and the Welsh, both by the frequency of their prayers 
to him and by various reports, without doubt confirm and 
estabUsh this opinion ; openly alleging that bishop Bernard 
sought after him more than once, notwithstanding much 
opposition, but was not able to find him. But let thus much 
suffice of St. David. 

After a long lapse of time, St. Augustine, at the instance 
of St. Gregory, came into Britain in the year of our Lord's 
incarnation 596, and the tradition of our ancestors has 
handed down, that the companion of liis labours, Paulinus, 
who was bishop of Eochester after being archbishop of 


York, covered the church, built, as we have before observed, 
of wattle-work, with a casing of boards. The dexterity 
of this celebrated man so artfully managed, that nothing of 
its sanctity should be lost, though much should accrue to its 
"beauty : and certainly the more magnificent the ornaments of 
churches are, the more they incline the brute mind to prayer, 
and bend the stubborn to supplication. 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 601, that is, the fifth 
after the arrival of St. Augustine, the king of Devonshire, on 
the petition of abbat Worgrez, granted to the old church 
which is there situated the land called Ineswitrin, containing 
five cassates.* "I, Maworn, bishop, wrote this grant. I, 
"Worgrez, abbat of the same place, signed it." 

Who this king might be, the antiquity of the instrument 
prevents our knowing. But that he was a Briton cannot be 
doubted, because he called Glastonbury, Ineswitrin, in his 
vernacular tongue ; and that, in the British, it is so called, is 
well known. Moreover it is proper to remark the extreme 
antiquity of a church, which, even then, was called " the old 
church." In addition to Worgrez, Lademund and Bregored, 
whose very names imply British barbarism, were abbats of 
this place. The periods of their presiding are uncertain, but 
their names and dignities are indicated by a painting in the 
larger church, near the altar. Blessed, therefore, are the 
inhabitants of this place, allured to uprightness of life, by 
reverence for such a sanctuary. I cannot suppose that any 
of these, when dead, can fail of heaven, when assisted by 
the virtues and intercession of so many patrons. In the 
year of our Lord's incarnation 670, and the 29th of his 
reign, Kenwalk gave to Berthwald, abbat of Glastonbury, 
Ferramere, two hides, at the request of archbishop Theo- 
dore. The same Berthwald, against the will of the king 
and of the bishop of the diocese, relinquishing Glastonbury, 
went to govern the monastery of Reculver. In consequence, 
Berthwald equally renowned for piety and high birth, being 
nephew to EtheLred, king of the Mercians, and residing in 
the vicinity of Canterbury, on the demise of archbishop 
Theodore, succeeded to his see. This may be sufiicient for 
me to have inserted on the antiquity of the church of Glas- 

♦ It is understood as synonymous ■w'ith hide, or as much land as one 
plough could till. 

28 WILLIAM OF jMALMESBURT. [». x. c. 2. 

tonburj. Now I shall return in course to Kenwalk, who 
was of a character so munificent that he never refused to 
give any part of his patrimony to his relations ; 'but with 
noble-minded generosity conferred nearly the third of his 
kingdom on liis nephew.* These qualities of the royal 
mind, were stimulated by the admonitions of those holy 
bishops of his province, A gilbert, of whom Bede relates 
many commendable things in his history of the Angles, and 
his nephew Leutherius, who, after him, was, for seven years, 
bishop of the West Saxons. This circumstance I have 
thought proper to mention, because Bede has left no account 
of the duration of his episcopacy, and to disguise a fact 
which I learn from the Chronicles, would be against my 
conscience; besides, it affords an opportunity for making 
mention of a distinguished man, who by a mind, clear, and 
almost divinely inspired, advanced the monastery of Malmes- 
bury, where I carry on my earthly warfare, to the highest 
jDitch. This monastery was so slenderly endowed by Mail- 
dulph, a Scot, as they say, by nation, a philosoj)her by eru- 
dition, and a monk by profession, that its members could 
scarcely procure their daily subsistence; but Leutherius, 
after long and due deliberation, gave it to Aldhelm,f a monk 
of the same place, to be by him governed with the authority 
then possessed by bishops. Of which matter, that my rela- 
tion may obviate every doubt, I shall subjoin his own words. 
"I, Leutherius, by divine permission, bishop supreme of 
the Saxon see, am requested by the abbats who, within the 
jurisdiction of our diocese, preside over the conventual as- 
semblies of monks with pastoral anxiety, to give and to 
grant that portion of land called Maildulfesburgh, to Aid- 
helm the priest, for the purpose of leading a life according 
to strict rule; in which place, indeed, from his earliest in- 
fancy and first initiation in the study of learning, he has 
been instructed in the liberal arts, and passed his days, nur- 
tured in the bosom of the holy mother church ; and on which 
account fraternal love appears princij^ally to have conceived 
this request. Wherefore assenting to the petition of the 
aforesaid abbats, I Avillingly grant that place to him and his 
successors, who shall sedulously follow the laws of the holy 

* Cuthred. According to the Saxon Chronicle, he bestowed on him 
3000 hides of land, f Bede, in " Chronicles of the Anglo-Saxons/' p. 267. 

A.D. 670.] PIETY OF ALDHELM. 29 

institution. Done publicly near the river Bladon;* this 
eighth before the kalends of Sei)tember, in the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 672." 

But when the industry of the abbat was superadded to 
the kindness of the bishop, then the afiairs of the monastery 
began to flourish exceedingly ; then monks assembled on all 
sides; there was a general concourse to Aldhelm; some ad- 
miring the sanctity of his life, others the depth of liis learn- 
ing. For he was a man as unsophisticated in religion as 
multifarious in knowledge ; whose piety surpassed even his 
reputation ; and he had so fully imbibed the liberal arts, that 
he was wonderful in each of them, and unrivalled in all. I 
greatly err, if his works written on the subject of virginity,! 
than which, in my opinion, nothing can be more pleasing or 
more splendid, are not proofs of his immortal genius : al- 
though, such is the slothfulness of our times, they may 
excite disgust in some persons, not duly considering how 
modes of expression diiFer according to the customs of 
nations. The Greeks, for instance, express themselves im- 
pliedly, the Romans clearly, the Gauls gorgeously, the 
Angles turgidly. And truly, as it is pleasant to dwell on 
the graces of our ancestors and to animate our minds by 
their example, I would here, most willingly, unfold what 
painful labours this holy man encountered for the privileges 
of our church, and with what miracles he signalized his life, 
did not my avocations lead me elsewhere ; and his noble acts 
appear clearer even to the eye of the purblind, than they 
can possibly be sketched by my pencil. The innumerable 
miracles which now take place at his tomb, manifest to the 
present race the sanctity of the life he passed. He has 
therefore his proper praise; he has the fame acquired by 
his merits. J We proceed with the history. 

* Where this river was is not known ; it has been conjectured it should 
he Avon. Malmesbury is also said to have been originally called Bladon. 

+ De Laudibus Virginitatis. His " Commendation of Virginity," was 
first written in prose: and was printed by H. Wharton, 4to. 1693. He 
afterwards versified it with occasional amplifications or omissions. Some 
MSS. give the date as 671: others 672; and others again 675. See Cani- 
sius, Antiquae Lectiones, t. i. 713. Ed. Basnagii. The whole works of 
Aldhelm have been collected for the first time by the present editor, and 
form vol. i. of Patres Ecclesi^ Anglican^ 

X Malmesbury afterwards wrote the life of Aldhelm. It ought to form 

30 "WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKT. [b. i. c. 2. 

After thirty-one years, Kenwalk dying, bequeathed the 
administration of the government to his wife Sexburga ; nor 
did this woman want spirit for discharging the duties of the 
station. She levied new forces, preserved the old in their 
duty; ruled her subjects with moderation, and overawed her 
enemies : in short, she conducted all tilings in such a manner, 
that no difference was discernible except that of her sex. 
But, breathing more than female spirit, she died, having 
scarcely reigned a year. 

Escwin passed the next two years in the government ; a 
near relation to the royal family, being grand-nephew to 
Cynegils, by his brother Cuthgist. At his death, either 
natural or violent, for I cannot exactly find which, Kentwin, 
the son of Cynegils, filled the vacant throne in legitimate 
succession. Both were men of noted experience in war ; as 
the one routed the Mercians, the other the Britons, with 
dreadful slaughter : but they were to be pitied for the short- 
ness of their career; the reign of the latter not extending 
beyond nine, that of the former, more than two years, as I 
have already related. This is on the credit of the Chronicles. 
However, Bede records that they did not reign successively, 
but divided the kingdom between them. 

Next sprang forth a noble branch of the royal stock, Caed- 
walla, grand-nephew of Ceawlin, by his brother Cutha : a 
youth of unbounded promise, who allowed no opportunity of 
exercising his valour to escape him. He, having long since, 
by his active exertions, excited the animosity of the princes 
of his country, was, by a conspiracy, driven into exile. 
Yielding to this outrage, as the means of depriving the 
province of its warlike force, he led away all the military 
population with him ; for, whether out of pity to his broken 
fortunes, or regard for his valour, the whole of the youth 
accompanied liim into exile. Ethelwalch, king of the South 
Saxons, hazarding an engagement with him, felt the first 
effects of his fury : for he was routed with all the forces he had 
collected, and too late repented his rash design.* The spirits 
of his followers being thus elated, Csedwalla, by a sudden 
and unexpected return, drove the rivals of his power from 

the fifth book " de Gentis Pontificum," but has never yet been printed in 
tlie same volume with the four preceding books. 
* See Bede, b. iv. c. 15. 

A.D. 68G- 694.] INA. 31 

the kingdom. Enjoying his government lor the space of 
two years, he performed many signal exploits. His hatred 
and hostility towards the South Saxons were inextinguish- 
able, and he totally destroyed Edric, the successor of Ethel- 
walch, who opposed him with renovated boldness : he nearly 
depopulated the Isle of Wight, which had rebelled in con- 
federacy with the Mercians : he also gained repeated victories 
over the people of Kent, as I have mentioned before in their 
history. Finally, as is observed above, he retired from that 
province, on the death of his brother, compensating his loss 
by the blood of many of its inhabitants. It is difficult to 
relate, how extremely pious he was even before his baptism, 
insomuch that he dedicated to God the tenth of all the spoils 
which he had acquired in war. In which, though we ap- 
prove the intention, we condemn the example ; according to 
the saying : " He who offers sacrifice from the substance of 
a poor man, is like him who immolates the son in the sight 
of the father." That he went to Rome to be baptized by 
Pope Sergius, and was called Peter; and that he yielded 
joj'fully to the will of heaven, while yet in his initiatory 
robes, are matters too well knovm to require our illustration. 
After his departure to Rome, the government was assumed 
by Ina, grand-nephew of Cynegils by liis brother Cuthbald, 
who ascended the throne, more from the innate activity of 
his spirit, than any legitimate right of succession. He was 
a rare example of fortitude ; a mirror of prudence ; un- 
equalled in piety. Thus regulating his life, he gained favour 
at home and respect abroad. Safe from any apprehensions 
of treachery, he grew old in the discharge of his duties for 
fifty-eight years, the pious conciliator of general esteem. 
His first expedition was against the people of Kent, as the 
indignation at their burning MoU had not yet subsided. 
The inhabitants resisted awliile : but soon finding aU their 
attempts and endeavours fail, and seeing nothing in the dis- 
position of Ina which could lead them to suppose he would 
remit his exertions, they were induced, by the contemplation 
of their losses, to treat of a surrender. They tempt the 
royal mind with presents, lure him with promises, and 
bargain for a peace for thirty thousand marks of gold, that, 
softened by so high a price, he should put an end to the 
war, and, bound in golden chains, sound a retreat. Accept- 

32 "WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. Lb. i. c. 2. 

ing the money, as a sufficient atonement for their offence, he 
returned into his kingdom. And not only the people of 
Kent, but the East Angles* also felt the effects of his here- 
ditary anger ; all their nobility being first expelled, and 
afterwards routed in battle. But let the relation of his mili- 
tary successes here find a termination. Moreover how sedu- 
lous he was in religious matters, the laws he enacted to re- 
form the manners of the people, are proof sufficient ;t in 
which the image of his purity is reflected even upon the 
present times. Another proof are the monasteries nobly 
founded at the king's expense. But| more especially Glas- 
tonbury, whither he ordered the bodies of the blessed martyr, 
Indract, and of his associates, to be taken from the place of 
their martyrdom and to be conveyed into the church. The 
body of St. Indract he deposited in the stone pyramid on 
the left side of the altar, where the zeal of posterity after- 
wards also placed St. Hilda : the others were distributed 
beneath the pavement as chance directed or regard might 
suggest. Here, too, he erected a church, dedicated to the 
holy apostles, as an appendage to the ancient church, of which 
we are speaking, enriched it with vast possessions, and 
granted it a privilege to the following effect : 

" In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ : I, Ina, sup- 
ported in my royal dignity by God, with the advice of my 
queen, Sexburga, and the permission of Berthwald, archbishop 
of Canterbury, and of all his suffragans ; and also at the in- 
stance of the princes Baltred and Athelard, to the ancient 
church, situate in the place called Glastonbury (which church 
the great high-priest and chiefest minister formerly through 
his own ministry, and that of angels, sanctified by many and 
unheard-of miracles to himself and the eternal Virgin Mary, 
as was formerly revealed to St. David,) do grant out of those 

* The Saxon Chronicle and Florence of Worcester mention his attacks 
on the South Saxons, but do not notice the East Angles. 

+ See Wilkins's Leges Anglo-Saxonicse. 

J Some manuscripts omit all that follows to " Berthwald, archbishop of 
Canterbury," p, 35, and insert in place of it " More especially that at Glas- 
tonbury most celebrated in our days, which he erected in a low retired 
situation, in order that the monks might more eagerly thirst after heavenly, 
in proportion as they were less affected by earthly things." Sharpe in- 
serts the shorter passage in his text, and gives the longer in a note. 

A.D.725.J INA's grants. S3 

places, which I possess bj paternal inheritance, and hold 
in my demesne, they being adjacent and fitting for the pur- 
pose, for the maintenance of the monastic institution, and the 
use of the monks, Brente ten hides, Sowy ten hides, Pilton 
twenty hides, Dulting twenty hides, Bledenhida one hide, 
together with whatever my predecessors have contributed to 
the same church :* to wit, Kenwalk, who, at the instance of 
archbishop Theodore, gave Ferramere, Bregarai, Coneneie, 
Martineseie, Etheredseie ; Kentwin, who used to call Glaston- 
bury, " the mother of saints," and liberated it from every 
secular and ecclesiastical service, and granted it this dignified 
privilege, that the brethren of that place should have the power 
of electing and appointing their ruler according to the rule of 
St. Benedict : Hedda the bishop, with permission of Caedwalla, 
who, though a heathen, confirmed it with his own hand, gave 
Lantokay : Baltred, who gave Pennard, six hides : Athelard 
who contributed Poelt, sixty hides ; I, Ina, permitting and 
confirming it. To the piety and affectionate entreaty of these 
people I assent, and I guard by the security of my royal grant 
against the designs of malignant men and snarling curs, in 
order that the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal 
Virgin Mary, as it is the first in the kingdom of Britain and 
the source and the fountain of all religion, may obtain sur- 
passing dignity and privilege, and, as she rules over choirs of 
angels in heaven, it may never pay servile obedience to men 
on earth. Wherefore the chief pontiff, Gregory, assenting, 
and taking the mother of his Lord, and me, however un- 
worthy, together with her, into the bosom and protection of 
the holy Roman church ; and all the princes, archbishops, 
bishops, dukes, and abbats of Britain consenting, I appoint 
and establish, that, all lands, places, and possessions of St. 
Mary of Glastonbury be free, quiet, and undisturbed, from all 
royal taxes and works, which are wont to be appointed, that 
is to say, expeditions, the building of bridges or forts, and 
from the edicts or molestations of all archbishops or bishops, 
as is found to be confirmed and granted by my predecessors, 
Kenwalk, Kentwin, Csedwalla, Baltred, in the ancient charters 
of the same church. And whatsoever questions shall arise, 
whether of homicide, sacrilege, poison, theft, rapine, the dis- 

* See Kemble's Charters, vol. i. p. 85. 


posal and limits of churches, the ordination of clerks, eccle- 
siastical synods, and all judicial inquiries, they shall be deter- 
mined by the decision of the abbat and convent, without the 
interference of any person whatsoever. Moreover, I command 
all princes, archbishops, bishops, dukes, and governors of my 
kingdom, as they tender my honour and regard, and all de- 
pendants, mine as well as theirs, as they value their personal 
safety, never to dare enter the island of our Lord Jesus 
Christ and of the eternal Virgin, at Glastonbury, nor the 
possessions of the said church, for the purpose of holding 
courts, making inquiry, or seizing, or doing anything what- 
ever to the offence of the servants of God there residing : 
moreover I particularly inhibit, by the curse of Almighty 
God, of the eternal Virgin Mary, and of the holy apostles 
Peter and Paul, and of the rest of the saints, any bishop on 
any account whatever from presuming to take his episcopal 
seat or celebrate divine service or consecrate altars, or dedi- 
cate churches, or ordain, or do any thing whatever, either in 
the church of Glastonbury itself, or its dependent churches, 
that is to say — Sowy, Brente, Merlinch, Sapewic, Stret, 
Sbudeclalech, Pilton, or in their chapels, or islands, unless he 
be specially invited by the abbat or brethren of that place. 
But if he come upon such invitation, he shall take nothing 
to himself of the things of the church, nor of the offerings ; 
knowing that he has two mansions appointed him in two 
several places out of this church's possessions, one in Pilton, 
the other in the village called Poelt, that, when coming or 
going, he may have a place of entertainment. Nor even 
shall it be lawful for him to pass the night here unless he 
shall be detained by stress of weather or bodily sickness, or 
invited by the abbat or monks, and then with not more than 
three or four clerks. Moreover let the aforesaid bishop be 
mindful every year, with his clerks that are at Wells, to 
acknowledge his mother church of Glastonbury with litanies 
on the second day after our Lord's ascension ; and should he 
haughtily defer it, or fail in the things which are above re- 
cited and confirmed, he shall forfeit his mansions above men- 
tioned. The abbat or monks shall direct whom they please, 
celebrating Easter canonically, to perform service in the 
church of Glastonbury, its dependent churches, and in their 
chapels. Whosoever, be he of what dignity, profession, or 


degree, he may, shall hereafter, on any occasion whatsoever, 
attempt to pervert, or nullify this, the witness of my munifi- 
cence and liberality, let him be aware that, with the traitor 
Judas, he shall perish, to his eternal confusion, in the de- 
vouring flames of unspeakable torments. The charter of 
this donation was written in the year of our Lord's incarna- 
tion 725, the fourteenth of the indiction, in the presence of 
the king Ina, and of Berthwald, archbishop of Canterbury." 
What splendour he [Ina] added to the monastery, may be 
collected from the short treatise which I have written about 
its antiquities.* Father Aldhelm assisted the design, and 
his precepts were heard with humility, nobly adopted, and 
joyfully carried into effect. Lastly, the king readily con- 
firmed the privilege which Aldhelm had obtained from pope 
Sergius, for the immunity of his monasteries ; gave much to 
the servants of God by his advice, and finally honoured him, 
though constantly refusing, with a bishopric ; but an early 
death malignantly cut off this great man from the world. 
For scarcely had he discharged the offices of his bishopric 
four years, ere he made his soul an offering to heaven, in 
the year of our Lord's incarnation 709, on the vigil of St. 
Augustine the apostle of the Angles, namely the eighth be- 
fore the Kalends of June."]" Some say, that he was the 
nephew of the king, by his brother Kenten ; but I do not 
choose to assert for truth any thing which savours more of 
vague opinion, than of historic credibility ; especially as I 
can find no ancient record of it, and the Chronicle clearly de- 
clares, that Ina had no other brother than Ingild, who died 
some few years before him. Aldhelm needs no support from 
fiction : such great things are there concerning him of indis- 
putable truth, so many which are beyond the reach of doubt. 
The sisters, indeed, of Ina were Cuthburga and Cwenburga. 
Cuthburga was given in marriage to Alfrid, king of the 
Northumbrians, but the contract being soon after dissolved, 
she led a life dedicated to God, first at Barking,{ under the 
abbess Hildelitha, and afterwards as superior of the convent 
at Wimborue ; now a mean village, but formerly celebrated 

• The Antiquities of Glastonbury were publislied about the same time 
by Gale, vol. Hi. and by Heame. 

t The 25th of May. $ Bede, Eccl. Hist. b. iv. c. 7-10. 

-36 -WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKT. [b.i. c.2. 

for containing a full company of virgins, dead to earthly 
desires, and breathing only aspirations towards heaven. 
She embraced the profession of holy celibacy from the peru- 
sal of Aldhelm's books on virginity, dedicated indeed to the 
sisterhood of Barking, but profitable to all, who aspire to 
that state. Ina's queen was Ethelburga, a woman of royal 
race and disposition : who perpetually urging the necessity 
of bidding adieu, to earthly things, at least in the close of 
life, and the king as constantly deferring the execution of 
her advice, at last endeavoured to overcome him by strata- 
gem. For, on a certain occasion, when they had been 
revelling at a country seat with more than usual riot and 
luxury, the next day, after their departure, an attendant, 
with the privity of the queen, defiled the palace in every 
possible manner, both with the excrement of cattle and heaps 
of filth ; and lastly he put a sow, which had recently far- 
rowed, in the very bed where they had lain. They had 
hardly proceeded a mile, ere she attacked her husband with 
the fondest conjugal endearments, entreating that they might 
immediately return tliither, whence they had departed, say- 
ing, that his denial would be attended with dangerous con- 
sequences. Her petition being readily granted, the king was 
astonished at seeing a place, which yesterday might have 
vied with Assyrian luxury, now filthily disgusting and deso- 
late : and silently pondering on the sight, his eyes at length 
turned upon the queen. Seizing the opportunity, and plea- 
santly smiling, she said, " My noble spouse, where are the 
revellings of yesterday ? Where the tapestries dipped in 
Sidonian dyes ? Where the ceaseless impertinence of para- 
sites ? Where the sculptured vessels, overwhelming the very 
tables with their weight of gold ? Where are the delicacies 
so anxiously sought throughout sea and land, to pamper the 
appetite ? Ai^e not all these things smoke and vapour ? 
Have they not all passed away ? Woe be to those who attach 
themselves to such, for they in like manner shall consume 
away. Are not all these like a rapid river hastening to the 
sea ? And woe to those who are attached to them, for they 
shall be carried away by the current. Reflect, I entreat you, 
how wretchedly will these bodies decay, which we pamper 
with such unbounded luxury. Must not we, who gorge so 
constantly, become more disgustingly putrid ? The mighty 

A.D. 725-741.] ETHELAED CUTHRED. 37 

must undergo mightier torments, and a severer trial awaits 
the strong." Without saying more, by this striking example, 
she gained over her husband to those sentiments, which she 
had in vain attempted for years by persuasion.* 

For after his triumphal spoils in war ; after many succes- 
sive degrees in virtue, he aspired to the highest perfection, 
and went to Rome. There, not to make the glory of his 
conversion public, but that he might be acceptable in the 
sight of God alone, he was shorn in secret ; and, clad in 
homely garb, grew old in privacy. Nor did his queen, the 
author of this noble deed, desert him ; but as she had before 
incited him to undertake it, so, afterwards, she made it her 
constant care to soothe his sorrows by her conversation, to 
stimulate him, when wavering, by her example ; in short, to 
omit nothing that could be conducive to his salvation. Thus 
united in mutual affection, in due time they trod the common 
path of all mankind. This was attended, as we have heard, 
with singular miracles, such as God often deigns to bestow- 
on the virtues of happy couples. 

To the government succeeded Ethelard, the cousin of Ina ; 
though Oswald, a youth of royal extraction, often obscured 
his opening prospects. Exciting his countrymen to rebellion, 
he attempted to make war on the king, but soon after perish- 
ing by some unhappy doom, Ethelard kept quiet possession 
of the kingdom for fourteen years, and then left it to his 
kinsman, Cuthred, who for an equal space of time, and with 
similar courage, was ever actively employed : — 

" In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I, Cuthred, king 
of the West Saxons, do hereby declare that all the gifts of 
former kings — Kentwin, Baldred, Kedwall, Ina, Ethelard, 
and Ethbald king of the Mercians, in country houses, and in 
villages and lands, and farms, and mansions, according to the 
confirmations made to the ancient city of Glastonbury, and 
confirmed by autograph and by the sign of the cross, I do, as 
was before said, hereby decree that this grant of former kings 
shall remain firm and inviolate, as long as the revolution of 
the pole shall carry the lands and seas with regular move- 

* All this passage, from " What splendour, p. 35, to persuasion," is omit- 
ted in some MSS., and is given in a note by Hardy and Sharpe ; but it 
= seems almost necessary to the context. 

38 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b r. c. 8. 

ment round the starry heavens. But if any one, confiding 
in tyrannical pride shall endeavour on any occasion to dis- 
turb and nullify this my testamentary grant, may he be sepa- 
rated by the fan of the last judgment from the congregation 
of the righteous, and joined to the assembly of the wicked 
for ever, paying the penalty of his violence. But whoever 
with benevolent intention shall strive to approve, confirm, 
and defend this my grant, may he be allowed to enjoy un- 
faiHng immortality before the glory of Him that sitteth on 
the throne, together with the happy companies of angels and of 
all the saints. A copy of this grant was set forth in presence 
of king Cuthred, in the aforesaid monastery, and dedicated 
to the holy altar by the munificence of his own hand, in the 
wooden church, where the brethren placed the coffin of abbat 
Hemgils, the 30th of April, in the year of our Lord 745." 

The same Cuthred, after much toil, made a successful cam- 
paign against Ethelbald, king of Mercia, and the Britons, 
and gave up the sovereignty after he had held it fourteen 

Sigebert then seized on the kingdom ; a man of inhuman 
cruelty among his own siibjects, and noted for cowardice 
abroad ; but the common detestation of all conspiring against 
him, he was within a year driven from the throne, and gave 
place to one more worthy. Yet, as commonly happens in 
similar cases, the severity of his misfortunes brought back 
some persons to liis cause, and the province which is called 
Hampshire, was, by their exertions, retained in subjection to 
him. Still, however, unable to quit his former habits, and 
exciting the enmity of all against him by the murder of one 
Cumbran, who had adhered to him with unshaken fidelity, 
he fled to the recesses of wild beasts. Misfortune still 
attending him thither also, he was stabbed by a swineherd. 
Thus the cruelty of a king, which had almost desolated the 
higher ranks, was put an end to by a man of the lowest 

Cynewolf next undertook the guidance of the state ; illus- 
trious for the regulation of his conduct and liis deeds in arms : 
but suiFering extremely from the loss of a single battle, in the 
the twenty-fourth year of his reign, against Offa, king of the 
Mercians, near Bensington, he was also finally doomed to a 
disgraceful death. For after he had reigned thirty-one 

A,p. 770-784.] DEATH OF CTNEWOLF. 39 

years,* neither indolently nor oppressively, either elated with 
success, because he imagined nothing could oppose him, or 
alarmed for his posterity, from the increasing power of 
Kineard, the brother of Sigebert, he compelled him to quit 
the kingdom. Kineard, deeming it necessary to yield to the 
emergency of the times, departed as if voluntarily ; but soon 
after, when by secret meetings he had assembled a desperate 
band of wretches, watching when the king might be alone, 
for he had gone into the country for the sake of recreation, 
he followed him thither with his party. And learning that 
he was there giving loose to improper desires, he beset the 
house on all sides. The king struck with his perilous situa- 
tion, and holding a conference with the persons present, shut 
fast the doors, expecting either to appease the desperadoes 
by fair language, or to terrify them by threats. When 
neither succeeded, he rushed furiously on Kineard, and had 
nearly killed him ; but, surrounded by the multitude, and 
thinking it derogatory to his courage to give way, he fell, 
selling his life nobly. Some few of his attendants, who, in- 
stead of yielding, attempted to take vengeance for the loss of 
their lord, were slain. The report of this dreadful outrage 
soon reached the ears of the nobles, who were waiting near 
at hand. Of these Esric, the chief in age and prudence, 
conjuring the rest not to leave unrevenged the death of their 
sovereign to their own signal and eternal ignominy, rushed 
with drawn sword upon the conspirators. At first Kineard 
attempted to argue his case ; to make tempting offers ; to 
hold forth their relationship ; but when this availed nothing, 
he stimulated his party to resistance. Doubtful was the con- 
flict, where one side contended with all its powers for life, 
the other for glory. And victory, wavering for a long time, 
at last decided for the juster cause. Thus, fruitlessly valiant, 
this unhappy man lost his life, unable long to boast the suc- 
cess of his treachery. The king's body was buried at Win- 
chester, and the prince's at Repton ; at that time a noble 
monastery, but at present, as I have heard, with few, or 
scarcely any inmates. 

* Malmesbury here perpetuates the error of the transcriber of the Saxon 
Chronicle, in assigning thirty-one years to Cynewolf, for as he came to the 
throne in 75G, and was killed in 784, consequently he reigned about, 
twenty-nine years. Perhaps he wrote, correctly, " uno de triginta annis" 
conjectures Mr. Hardy. 

4iO WILLIAM OP MALMESBUEY. [b. r. c. i. 

After him, for sixteen years, reigned Bertric : more 
studious of peace than of war. Skilful in conciliating 
friendship, affable with foreigners, and giving great allow- 
ances to his subjects, in those matters at least which could 
not impair the strength of the government. To acquire still 
greater estimation with his neighbours, he married the 
daughter of Offa, king of Mercia, at that time all-powerful ; 
by whom, as far as I am acquainted, he had no issue. 
Supported by this alliance he compelled Egbert, the sole 
survivor of the royal stock, and whom he feared as the most 
effectual obstacle to his power, to fly into France. In fact 
Bertric himself, and the other kings, after Ina, though 
glorying in the splendour of their parentage, as deriving 
their origin from Cerdic, had considerably deviated from the 
direct line of the royal race. On Egbert's expulsion, then, 
he had already begun to indulge in indolent security, when 
a piratical tribe of the Danes, accustomed to live by plunder, 
clandestinely arriving in three ships, disturbed the tran- 
quilHty of the kingdom. This band came over expressly to 
ascertain the fruitfulness of the soil, and the courage of the 
inhabitants, as was afterwards discovered by the arrival of 
that multitude, which over-ran almost the whole of Britain. 
Landing then, unexpectedly, when the kingdom was in a 
state of profound peace, they seized upon a royal village, 
which was nearest them, and killed the superintendent, who 
had advanced with succours ; but losing their booty, through 
fear of the people, who hastened to attack them, they retired 
to their ships. After Bertric, who was buried at Warham, 
Egbert ascended the throne of his ancestors ; justly to be 
preferred to all the kings who preceded him. Thus having 
brought down our narrative to his times, we must, as we 
have promised, next give our attention to the Northumbrians. 

CHAP. m. 

Of the kings of the Northumbrians, [a.d. 450.] 

We have before related briefly, and now necessarily repeat, 
that Hengist, having settled his own government in Kent, 
had sent his brother Otha, and his son Ebusa, men of 
activity and tried experience, to seize on the northern parts 
gf Britain. Sedulous in executing the command, affairs 

A.D. 450 -560.] IDA ALL A. 41 

succeeded to their wishes. For frequently coming into action 
with the inhabitants, and dispersing those who attempted 
resistance, they conciliated with uninterrupted quiet such as 
submitted. Thus, though through their own address and 
the good will of their followers, they had established a 
certain degree of power, yet never entertaining an idea of 
assuming the royal title, they left an example of similar 
moderation to their immediate posterity. For during the 
space of ninety-nine years, the Northumbrian leaders, 
contented with subordinate power, Hved in subjection to the 
kings of Kent. Afterwards, however, this forbearance 
ceased ; either because the human mind is ever prone to 
degeneracy, or because that race of people was naturally 
ambitious. In the year, therefore, of our Lord's incarnation 
547, the sixtieth after Hengist's death, the principality was 
converted into a kingdom. The most noble Ida, in the full 
vigour of life and of strength, first reigned there. But 
whether he himself seized the chief authority, or received it 
by the consent of others, I by no means venture to determine, 
because the truth is unrevealed. However, it is sufficiently 
evident, that, sprung from a great and ancient lineage, he 
reflected much splendour on his illustrious descent, by his 
pure and unsullied manners. Unconquerable abroad, at 
home he tempered his kingly power with peculiar affability. 
Of this man, and of others, in their respective places, I 
could lineally trace the descent, were it not that the very 
names, of uncouth sound, would be less agreeable to my 
readers than I wish. It may be proper though to remark, 
that Woden had three sons ; Weldeg, Withleg, and Beldeg ; 
from the first, the kings of Kent derived their origin ; from 
the second, the kings of Mercia ; and from the third, the 
kings of the West- Saxons and Northumbrians, with the 
exception of the two I am going to particularize. This Ida, 
then, the ninth from Beldeg, and the tenth from Woden, as 
I find positively declared, continued in the government 
fourteen years. 

His successor Alia, originating from the same stock, but 
descending from Woden by a different branch, conducted the 
government, extended by his exertions considerably beyond 
its former bounds, for thirty years. In his time, youths from 
Northumbria were exposed for sale, after the common and 

42 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. i. c 3. 

almost native custom of this people ; so that, even as our 
days have witnessed, they would make no scruple of 
separating the nearest ties of relationship through the 
temptation of the slightest advantage. Some of these youths 
then, carried from England for sale to Rome, became the 
means of salvation to all their countrymen. For exciting 
the attention of that city, by the beauty of their countenances 
and the elegance of their features, it happened that, among 
others, the blessed Gregory, at that time archdeacon of the 
apostOiical see, was present. Admiring such an assemblage 
of grace in mortals, and, at the same time, pitying their 
abject condition, as captives, he asked the standers-by, "of 
what race are these ? Whence come they ? " They reply, " by 
birth they are Angles ; by country are Deiri ; (Deira being 
a province of Northumbria,) subjects of King Alia, and 
Pagans." Their concluding characteristic he accompanied 
with heartfelt sighs : to the others he elegantly alluded, 
saying, "that these Angles, angel-like, should be delivered 
from C^eJ ira, and taught to sing Alle-luia.''^ Obtaining 
permission without delay from pope Benedict, the industry 
of this excellent man was all alive to enter on the journey to 
convert them ; and certainly his zeal would have completed 
this intended labour, had not the mutinous love of his 
fellow citizens recalled him, already on his progress. He 
was a man as celebrated for his virtues, as beloved by his 
countrymen ; for by his matchless worth, he had even 
exceeded the expectations they had formed of him from his 
youth. His good intention, though frustrated at this time, 
received afterwards, during his pontificate, an honourable 
termination, as the reader will find in its proper place. I 
have made this insertion with pleasure, that my readers 
might not lose this notice of Alia, mention of whom is 
slightly made in the life of Pope Gregory, who, although he 
was the primary cause of introducing Christianity among 
the Angles, yet, either by the counsel of God, or some 
mischance, was never himself permitted to know it. The 
calling, indeed, descended to his son. 

On the death of Alia, Ethelric, the son of Ida, advanced 
to extreme old age, after a life consumed in penury, obtained 
the kingdom, and after five years, was taken off by a sudden 
death. He was a pitiable prince, whom fame would have 

A.D. 588—603.] ETHELFRID. 43 

hidden in obscurity, had not the conspicuous energy of the 
son Hfted up the father to notice. 

When, therefore, by a long old age, he had satisfied the 
desire of life, Ethelfrid, the elder of his sons, ascended the 
throne, and compensated the greenness of his years by the 
maturity of his conduct. His transactions have been so dis- 
played by graceful composition, that they want no assistance 
of mine, except as order is concerned. Bede has eagerly 
dwelt on the praises of this man and his successors ; and has 
dilated on the Northumbrians at greater length, because they 
were his near neighbours : our history, therefore, will select 
and compile from his relation. In order, however, that no 
one may blame me for contracting so diffuse a narrative, I 
must tell him that I have done it purposely, that they who 
have been satiated with such high-seasoned delicacies, may 
respire a little on these humble remnants : for it is a saying 
trite by use and venerable for its age, " that the meats which 
cloy the least are eaten with keenest appetite." Ethelfrid 
then, as I was relating, having obtained the kingdom, began 
at first vigorously to defend his own territories, afterwards 
eagerly to invade his neighbours, and to seek occasion for 
signalizing himself on all sides. Many wars were begun by 
him with foresight, and terminated with success ; as he was 
neither restrained from duty by indolence, nor precipitated 
into rashness by courage. An evidence of these tilings is 
Degstan,* a noted place in those parts, where Edan, king of 
the Scots, envying Ethelfrid's successes, had constrained 
him, though averse, to give battle ; but, being overcome, he 
took to flight, though the triumph was not obtained without 
considerable hazard to the victor. For Tedbald, the brother 
of Ethelfrid, opposing himself to the most imminent dangers 
that he might display his zeal in his brother's cause, left a 
mournful victory indeed, being cut off with his whole party. 
Another proof of his success is afforded by the city of Car- 
legion, now commonly called Chester, which, till that period 
possessed by the Britons, fostered the pride of a people hos- 
tile to the king. When he bent his exertions to subdue this 
city, the townsmen preferring any extremity to a siege, and 
at the same confiding in their numbers, rushed out in multi- 
tudes to battle. But deceived by a stratagem, they were 
• Supposed Dalstoii near Carlisle, or Dawston near Ichborougb. 

44 -WTLLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. [a. i, c. 3. 

overcome and put to flight ; his fury being first vented on 
the monks, who came out in numbers to pray for the safety 
of the army. That their number was incredible to these 
times is apparent from so many half- destroyed walls of 
churches in the neighbouring monastery, so many winding 
porticoes, such masses of ruins as can scarcely be seen else- 
where. The place is called Bangor ; at that day a noted 
monastery, but now changed into a cathedral.* Ethelfrid, 
thus, wliile circumstances proceeded to his wishes abroad, 
being desirous of warding off domestic apprehensions and 
intestine danger, banished Edwin, the son of Alia, a youth 
of no mean worth, from his kingdom and country. He, 
wandering for a long time without any settled habitation, 
found many of his former friends more inclined to his enemy 
than to the observance of their engagements ; for as it is 

" If joy be thine, 'tis then thy friends abound : 
Misfortune comes, and thou alone art found." f 

At last he came to Redwald, king of the East Angles, and 
bewailing his misfortunes, was received into his protection. 
Shortly after there came messengers from Ethelfrid, either 
demanding the surrender of the fugitive, or denouncing hos- 
tilities. Determined by the advice of his wife not to violate, 
through intimidation, the laws of friendship, Redwald col- 
lected a body of troops, rushed against Ethelfrid, and at- 
tacked him suddenly, whilst suspecting nothing less than an 
assault. The only remedy that courage, thus taken by sur- 
prise, could suggest, there being no time to escape, he availed 
himself of. Wherefore, though almost totally unprepared, 
though beset with fearful danger on every side, he fell not 
till he had avenged his own death by the destruction of 
Regnhere, the son of Redwald. Such an end had Ethelfrid, 
after a reign of twenty-four years : a man second to none in 
martial experience, but entirely ignorant of the holy faith. 
He had two sons by Acca, the daughter of Alia, sister of 
Edwin, Oswald aged twelve, and Oswy four years ; who, 
upon the death of their father, fled through the management 
of their governors, and escaped into Scotland. 

* Malmesbury here confounds the ancient monastery of Banchor, near 
Chester, with the more modern see of Bangor in Carnarvonshire. 
t Ovid. Trist. 1. 9, y. 5. 

A.D. 617—633.] EDWm. 45 

In this manner, all his rivals being slain or banished, 
Edwin, trained by many adversities, ascended, not meanly 
qualified, the summit of power. When the haughtiness of 
the Northumbrians had bent to his dominion, his fehcity was 
crowned by the timely death of Redwald, whose subjects, 
during Edwin's exile among them, having formerly experi- 
enced his ready courage and ardent disposition, now willingly 
swore obedience to him. Granting to the son of Redwald 
the empty title of king, himself managed all things as he 
thought fit. At this juncture, the hopes and the resources 
of the Angles centred totally in him ; nor was there a single 
province of Britain which did not regard his will, and prepare 
to obey it, except Kent : for he had left the Kentish people 
free from his incursions, because he had long meditated 
a marriage with Ethelburga, sister of their king. When 
she was granted to him, after a courtship long protracted, to 
the intent that he should not despise that woman when pos- 
sessed whom he so ardently desired when withheld, these 
two kingdoms became so united by the ties of kindred, that, 
there was no rivalry in their powers, no difference in their 
manners. Moreover, on this occasion, the faith of Christ 
our Lord, infused into those parts by the preaching of Pau- 
linus, reached first the king himself, whom the queen, among 
other proofs of conjugal affection, was perpetually instruc- 
ting ; nor was the admonition of bishop Paulinus wanting in 
its place. For a long time, he was wavering and doubtful ; 
but once received, he imbibed it altogether. Then he invited 
neighbouring kings to the faith ; then he erected churches, 
and neglected nothing for its propagation. In the mean- 
while, the merciful grace of God smiled on the devotion of 
the king ; insomuch, that not only the nations of Britain, 
that is to say, the Angles, Scots, and Picts, but even the 
Orkney and Mevanian isles, which we now call Anglesey, 
that is, islands of the Angles, both feared his arms, and 
venerated his power. At that time, there was no public 
robber; no domestic thief; the tempter of conjugal fidelity 
was far distant ; the plunderer of another man's inheritance 
was in exile : a state of things redounding to his praise, and 
worthy of celebration in our times. In short, such was the 
increase of his power, that justice and peace willingly met 
and kissed each other, imparting mutual acts of kindness. 

46 "WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b, i. c. 3. 

And now indeed would the government of the Angles have 
held a prosperous course, had not an untimely death, the 
stepmother of all earthly felicity, by a lamentable turn of 
fortune, snatched this man from his country. For in the 
forty-eighth year of his age, and the seventeenth of his 
reign, being killed, together with his son, by the princes 
whom he had formerly subjugated, Cadwalla of the Britons 
and Penda of the Mercians, rising up against him, he became 
a melancholy example of human vicissitude. He was inferior 
to none in prudence : for he would not embrace even the 
Christian faith till he had examined it most carefully; but 
when once adopted, he esteemed nothing worthy to be com- 
pared to it. 

Edwin thus slain, the sons of Ethelfrid, who were also 
the nephews of Edwin, Oswald, and Oswy, now grown up, 
and In the budding prime of youth, re- sought their country, 
together with Eanfrid, their elder brother, whom I forgot 
before to mention. The kingdom, therefore, was now divided 
into two. Lideed, Northumbria, long since separated into 
two provinces, had elected Alia, king of the Deirans, and 
Ida, of the Bernicians. Wherefore Osric, the cousin of Ed- 
win, succeeding to Deira, and Eanfrid, the son of Ethelfrid, 
to Bernicia, they exulted in the recovery of their hereditary 
right. They had both been baptized in Scotland, though 
they were scarcely settled in their authority, ere they re- 
nounced their faith : but shortly after they suffered the just 
penalty of their apostacy tlirough the hostiUty of Cadwalla. 
The space of a year, passed in these transactions, improved 
Oswald, a young man of great hope, in the science of govern- 
ment. Armed rather by his faith, for he had been admitted 
to baptism while in exile with many nobles among the Scots, 
than by his military preparations, on the first onset he drove 
Cadwalla,* a man elated with the recollection of his former 
deeds, and, as he used himself to say, " born for the exter- 
mination of the Angles," from his camp, and afterwards de- 
stroyed him with all his forces. For when he had collected 
the little army which he was able to muster, he excited them 
to the conflict, in which, laying aside all thought of flight, 
they must determine either to conquer or die, by suggesting, 

Cadwalla, king of the Britons, having slaia Eanfrid and Osric, a.d. 
634, had usurped the government of Northumbria. 

A.D. 635.] OSWALD. 47 

"that it must be a circumstance liigtly disgraceful for the 
Angles to meet the Britons on such unequal terms, as to 
fight against those persons for safety, whom they had been 
used voluntarily to attack for glory only ; that therefore they 
should maintain their liberty with dauntless courage, and 
the most strenuous exertions; but, that of the impulse to 
flight no feeling whatever should be indulged/' In conse- 
quence they met with such fury on both sides, that, it may 
be truly said, no day was ever more disastrous for the Bri- 
tons, or more joyful for the Angles : so completely was one 
party routed with all its forces, as never to have hope of 
recovering again ; so exceedingly powerful did the other 
become, through the effects of faith and the accompanying 
courage of the king. From this time, the worship of idols 
fell prostrate in the dust; and he governed the kingdom, 
extended beyond Edwin's boundaries, for eight years, peace- 
ably and without the loss of any of his people. Bede, in his 
History, sets forth the praises of this king in a high style of 
panegyric, of which I shall extract such portions as may be 
necessary, by way of conclusion. With what fervent faith 
his breast was inspired, may easily be learned from this cir- 
cumstance. If at any time Aidan the priest addressed liis 
auditors on the subject of their duty, in the Scottish tongue, 
and no interpreter was present, the king himself would di- 
rectly, though habited in the royal robe, glittering with gold, 
or glowing with Tyrian purple, graciously assume that office, 
and explain the foreign idiom in his native language. It is 
well known too, that frequently at entertainments, when the 
guests had whetted their appetites and bent their inclinations 
on the feast, he would forego his own gratification ;* procur- 
ing, by his abstinence, comfort for the poor. So that I think 
the truth of that heavenly sentence was fulfilled even on 
earth, where the celestial oracle hath said, "He that dis- 
persed abroad, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness 
remaineth for ever." And moreover, what the hearer must 
wonder at, and cannot deny, that identical royal right hand, 

* When he was seated at table and just about to commence dinner, the 
royal almoner informed the king that a great number of poor were assem- 
bled in the street, asking relief; on which he immediately ordered the whole 
of the provisions to be distributed, and the silver dish also to be cut iiiLo 
pieces, and divided amongst them. See Bede, b. iii. c. 6. 

48 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [a i. c. 3. 

the dispenser of so many alms, remains to this day perfect, 
with the arm, the skin and nerves, though the remainder of 
the body, with the exception of the bones, mouldering into 
dust, has not escaped the common lot of mortality. It is 
true the corporeal remains of some of the saints are uncon- 
scious altogether of decay. Wherefore let others determine 
by what standard they will fix their judgment ; I pronounce 
this still more gracious and divine on account of its singular 
manifestation ; because things ever so precious degenerate by 
frequency, and whatever is more unusual, is celebrated more 
generally. I should indeed be thought prolix were I to re- 
late how diligent he was to address his prayers on high, and 
to fill the heavens with vows. This virtue of Oswald is too 
well known to require the support of our narrative. For at 
what time would that man neglect his supplications, who, in 
the insurrection excited by Penda king of the Mercians, liis 
guards being put to flight and himself actually carrying a 
forest of darts in liis breast, could not be prevented by the 
pain of his wounds or the approach of death, from praying 
for the souls of his faithful companions ? In such manner 
this personage, of surpassing celebrity in this world, and 
highly in favour with God, ending a valuable Hfe, trans- 
mitted his memory to posterity by a frequency of miracles ; 
and indeed most deservedly. For it is not common, but 
even more rare than a white crow, for men to abound in 
riches, and not give indulgence to their vices.* 

When he was slain, his arms with the hands and his head 
were cut olf by the insatiable rage of his conqueror, and 
fixed on a stake. The dead trunk indeed, as I have men- 
tioned, being laid to rest in the calm bosom of the earth, 
turned to its native dust ; but the arms and hands, through 
the power of God, remain, according to the testimony of an 
author of veracity, without corruption. These being placed 
by his brother Oswy in a shrine, at the city of Bebbanburg,f 
so the Angles call it, and shown for a miracle, bear testimony 
to the fact. Whether they remain at that place at the pre- 
sent day, I venture not rashly to affirm, because I waver in 
my opinion. If other historians have precipitately recorded 
any matter, let them be accountable : I hold common report 

* Juv. Sat. \ii. 202. 

t Bambrough in Northumberland. Bede iii. 6, p. 118, 

A.v. 642.] OSWALD. 49 

at a cheaper rate, and affirm notliing but what is deserving 
of entire credit. The head was then buried by his before- 
mentioned brother at Lindisfarne ; but it is said now to be 
preserved at Durham in the arms of the blessed Cuthbert.* 
When Ostritha, the wife of Ethelred, king of the Mercians, 
daughter of king Oswy, through regard to her uncle, was 
anxious to take the bones of the trunk to her monastery of 
Bardney, which is in the country of the Mercians not far 
from the city of Lincohi, the monks refused her request at 
first J denying repose even to the bones of that man when 
dead whom they had hated whilst living, because he had ob- 
tained their country by right of arms. But at midnight 
being taught, by a miraculous light from heaven shining on 
the relics, to abate their haughty pride, they became con- 
verts to reason, and even entreated as a favour, what before 
they had rejected. Virtues from on high became resident 
in this place : every sick person who implored this most 
excellent martyr's assistance, immediately received it. The 
withering turf grew greener from his blood, and recovered a 
horse :f and some of it being hung up against a post, the 
devouring flames fled from it in their turn. Some dust, 
moistened from liis relics, was equally efiicacious in restoring 
a lunatic to his proper senses. The washings of the stake 
which had imbibed the blood fresh streaming from his head, 
restored health to one despairing of recovery. For a long 
time this monastery, possessing so great a treasure, flourished 
in the sanctity of its members and the abundance of its 
friends, more especially after king Ethelred received the 
tonsure there, where also liis tomb is seen even to the pre- 
sent day. After many years indeed, when the barbarians 
infested these parts, the bones of the most holy Oswald were 
removed to Gloucester. This place, at that period inhabited 
by monks, but at the present time by canons, contains but 
few inmates. Oswald, therefore, was the man who yielded 
the first fruits of holiness to his nation ; since no Angle be- 

* St. Cuthbert is represented as holding the head of Oswald in his arms. 
Bede's bones were afterwards laid in the same coffin. 

+ The horse lay down under his rider in great agony ; but recovered by 
rolling on the spot and cropping the gi'ass. A person carried away some of 
the earth, which he hung up against a post in the wall : the house caught 
fire and was burnt with the exception of the timber to which the bag was 
tied. See Bede, b. iii. c. 9, 10 ; and for the other stories, c. 13. 

50 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. i. c. 3. 

fore him, to my knowledge, was celebrated for miracles. For 
after a life spent in sanctity, in liberally giving alms, in fre- 
quent watchings and prayer, and lastly, through zeal for the 
church of God, in waging war with an heathen, he poured 
out his spirit, according to his wishes, before he could behold, 
what was his greatest object of apprehension, the decline of 
Christianity. Nor indeed shall he be denied the praise of 
the martyrs, who, first aspiring after a holy life, and next 
opposing his body to a glorious death, certainly trod in their 
steps : in a manner he deserves higher commendation, since 
they barely consecrated themselves to God ; but Oswald not 
only himself, but all the Northumbrians with him. 

On his removal from this world, Oswy his brother 
assumed the dominion over the Bernicians, as did Oswin, 
the son of Osric, whom I have before mentioned, over 
the Deirans. After meeting temperately at first on the 
subject of the division of the provinces, under a doubtful 
truce, they each retired peaceably to their territories ; but 
not long after, by means of persons who delighted in sowing 
the seeds of discord, the peace, of which they had so often 
made a mockery by ambiguous treaties, was finally broken, 
and vanished into air. Horrid crime ! that there should be 
men who could envy these kings their friendly intimacy, nor 
abstain from using their utmost efibrts to precipitate them 
into battle. Here then fortune, who had before so frequently 
caressed Oswin with her blandishments, now wounded him 
with her scorpion-sting. For thinking it prudent to abstain 
from fighting, on account of the smallness of his force, he 
had secretly withdrawn to a country-seat, where he was 
immediately betrayed by his own people, and killed by Oswy. 
He was a man admirably calculated to gain the favour of his 
subjects by his pecuniary liberahty ; and, as they relate, 
demonstrated his care for his soul by his fervent devotion. 
Oswy, thus sovereign of the entire kingdom, did every thing 
to wipe out this foul stain, and to increase his dignity, ex- 
tenuating the enormity of that atrocious deed by the recti- 
tude of his future conduct. Indeed the first and highest 
point of his glory is, that he nobly avenged his brother and 
his uncle, and gave to perdition Penda king of the Mercians, 
that destroyer of his neighbours, and fomenter of hostility. 
From tliis period he either governed the Mercians, as well as 

A.D. 655—670.] OSWY. EGFRED. 51 

almost all tlie Angles, himself, or was supreme over those 
who did. Turning from this time altogether to offices of 
piety, that he might be truly grateful for the favours of God 
perpetually flowing down upon him, he proceeded to raise up 
and animate, with all his power, the infancy of the Christian 
faith, which of late was fainting through his brother's death. 
This faith, brought shortly after to maturity by the learning 
of the Scots, but wavering in many ecclesiastical observances, 
was now settled on canonical foundations : * first by Agilbert 
and Wilfrid, and next by archbishop Theodore : for whose 
arrival in Britain, although Egbert, king of Kent, as far as 
his province is concerned, takes much from his glory, the 
chief thanks are due to Oswy. f Moreover he built numer- 
ous habitations for the servants of God, and so left not his 
country destitute of this advantage also. The principal of 
these monasteries, at that time for females, but now for 
males, was situate about thirty miles north of York, and was 
anciently called Streaneshalch, but latterly Whitby. Begun 
by Hilda, a woman of singular piety, it was augmented with 
large revenues by Elfled, daughter of this king, who suc- 
ceeded her in the government of it ; in which place also she 
buried her father with all due solemnity, after he had reigned 
twenty-eight years. This monastery, like all others of the 
same order, was destroyed in the times of the Danish inva- 
sion, which will be related hereafter, and bereaved of the 
bodies of many saints. For the bones of St. Aidan the 
bishop, of Ceolfrid the abbat, and of that truly holy virgin 
Hilda, together with those of many others, were, as I have 
related in the book which I lately published on the Antiquity 
of the Church of Glastonbury, at that time removed to Glas- 
tonbury ; and those of other saints to different places. Now 
the monastery, under another name, and somewhat restored 
as circumstances permitted, hardly presents a vestige of its 
former opulence. 

To Oswy, who had two sons, the elder who was illegiti- 
mate being rejected, succeeded the younger, Egfrid, legiti- 
mately born, more valued on account of the good quahties of 
his most pious wife Etheldrida, than for his own ; yet he 

* The principal points in dispute were, the time of celebrating Easter 
and the form of the tonsure. See Bede, Eccl. Hist. iii. 25, 
+ See Bede, Hist. Eccl. iii. 29. 


52 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b, i. c. 3. 

was certainly to be commended for two things wliicli I have 
read in the history of the Angles, his allowing his wife to 
dedicate herself to God, and his promoting the blessed Cuth- 
bert to a bishopric, whose tears at the same time burst out 
with pious assent.* But my mind shudders at the bare re- 
collection of his outrage against the holy Wilfrid, when, 
loathing his virtues, he deprived the country of this shining 
character. Overbearing towards the suppHant, a malady 
incident to tyrants, he overwhelmed the Irish, a race of men 
harmless in genuine simplicity and guiltless of every crime, 
with incredible slaughter. On the other hand, inactive 
towards the rebellious, and not following up the triumphs of 
his father, he lost the dominion of the Mercians, and more- 
over, defeated in battle by Ethelred the son of Penda, their 
king, he lost his brother also. Perhaps these last circum- 
stances may be truly attributed to the unsteadiness of 
youth, but his conduct towards Wilfrid, to the instigation of 
his wife, I and of the bishops ; more especially as Bede, a 
man who knew not how to flatter, calls him, in his book of 
the Lives of his Abbats, the most pious man, the most be- 
loved by Grod. At length, in the fifteenth year of his reign, 
as he was leading an expedition against the Picts, and 
eagerly pursuing them as they purposely retired to some 
secluded mountains, he perished with almost all his forces ; 
the few who escaped by flight carried home news of the 
event ; and yet the divine Cuthbert, from his knowledge of 
future events, had both attempted to keep him back, when 
departing, and at the very moment of his death, enlightened 
by heavenly influence, declared, though at a distance, that 
he was slain. 

While a more than common report every where noised the 
death of Egfrid, an intimation of it, " borne on the wings of 
haste," reached the ears of his brother Alfrid. Though the 
elder brother, he had been deemed, by the nobility, unwor- 

* Bede's Life of St. Cuthbert, c. 24. 

t Ermenburga, the second wife of Egfrid. The first, Etheldrida, was 
divorced from him, on account of her love of cehbacy, and became a nun. 
Wilfrid, bishop of Hexham, was several times expelled his see. Elected 
bishop of York, a.d. 664, he was expelled in 678 He was recalled to 
Northumbria in 687, and again expelled 692. He died a. d. 709, having 
been reinstated by the pope. See Bede v. 1 9. and Sax. Chron. 

A.D. 085— 730.] OSRED. CEOLWULF. 53 

thy of the government, from his illegitimacy, as I have ob- 
served, and had retired to Ireland, either through compulsion 
or indignation. In this place, safe from the persecution of 
his brother, he had, from his ample leisure, become deeply 
versed in Uterature, and had enriched his mind with every 
kind of learning. On which account the very persons who 
had formerly banished him, esteeming him the better quali- 
fied to manage the reins of government, now sent for him of 
their own accord. Fate rendered efficacious their entreaties ; 
neither did he disappoint their expectations. For during 
the space of nineteen years, he presided over the kingdom in 
the utmost tranquiUity and joy ; doing nothing that even 
greedy calumny itself could justly carp at, except the perse- 
cution of that great man Wilfrid. However he held not the 
same extent of territory as his father and brother, because 
the Picts, proudly profiting by their recent victory, and 
attacking the Angles, who were become indolent through a 
lengthened peace, had curtailed his boundaries on the north. 
He had for successor his son, Osred, a boy of eight years 
old ; who disgracing the throne for eleven years, and 
spending an ignominious life in the seduction of nuns, was 
ultimately taken off by the hostility of his relations. Yet 
he poured out to them a draught from the same cup ; for 
Kenred after reigning two, and Osric eleven years, left only 
this to be recorded of them ; that they expiated by a violent 
death, the blood of their master, whom they supposed they 
had rightfully slain. Osric indeed deserved a happier end, 
for, as a heathen* says, he was more dignified than other 
shades, because, while yet living he had adopted Ceolwulf, 
Kenred's brother, as his successor. Then Ceolwulf ascended 
the giddy height of empire, seventh in descent from Ida : a 
man competent in other respects, and withal possessed of a 
depth of literature, acquired by good abilities and indefati- 
gable attention. Bede vouches for the truth of my assertion, 
who, at the very juncture when Britain most abounded with 
scholars, offered his History of the Angles, for correction, to 
this prince more especially ; making choice of his authority, 
to confirm by his high station what had been well written ; 
and of his learning, to rectify by his talents what might be 
carelessly expressed. 

* Virg. iEn. vi. 815. 

54 WILLLOI OF MALMESBHRT. [b. i. c. 3. 

In the fourth year of his reign, Bede, the historian, after 
having written many books for the holy church, entered the 
heavenly kingdom, for which he had so long languished, in 
the year of our Lord's incarnation 734 ; of his age the 
fifty-ninth. A man whom it is easier to admire than worthily 
to extol : who, though born in a remote corner of the world, 
was able to dazzle the whole earth with the brilliancy of his 
learning. For even Britain, which by some is called another 
world, since, surrounded by the ocean, it was not thoroughly 
known by many geographers, possesses, in its remotest region, 
bordering on Scotland, the place of his birth and education. 
This region, formerly exhaling the grateful odour of 
monasteries, or ghttering with a multitude of cities built by 
the Romans, now desolate through the ancient devastations 
of the Danes, or those more recent of the Normans,* presents 
but little to allure the mind. Here is the river Wear, of 
considerable breadth and rapid tide ; which running into the 
sea, receives the vessels, borne by gentle gales, on the calm 
bosom of its haven. Both its banks f have been made 
conspicuous by one Benedict, J who there built churches and 
monasteries ; one dedicated to Peter, and the other to Paul, 
united in the bond of brotherly love and of monastic rule. 
The industry and forbearance of this man, any one will 
admire who reads the book which Bede composed concerning 
his life and those of the succeeding abbats : his industry, in 
bringing over a multitude of books, and being the first person 
who introduced in England constructors of stone edifices, as 
well as makers of glass windows ; in which pursuits he spent 
almost his whole life abroad : the love of his country and 
his taste for elegance beguiling his painful labours, in the 

* The country was laid waste by the Danes, a.d. 793, and continued to 
be disturbed by them throughout the reigns of Alfred and Ethelred. The 
great devastation was made by William the Conqueror a.d. 1069. 

t This is not quite correct : Jarrow, one of Benedict's monasteries, is on 
the river Tyne. 

^ Benedict sumamed Biscop, a noble Northumbrian, quitted the service 
of king Oswy, when he had attained his twenty-fifth year, and travelled to 
Rome five several times ; occupying himself while there, either in learning 
the Roman ritual, or in collecting books, pictures, and ornaments of various 
descriptions for the monasteries he had founded at Wearmouth : he also 
brought over masons from France to build a church after the Roman 
manner ; as well as artificers in glass. See Bede's Lives of the Abbats of 
Wearmouth and Jarrow. 

A. D. 690.] CEOLFEID. 55 

earnest desire of conveying something to his countrymen out 
of the common way ; for very rarely before the time of 
Benedict were buildings of stone * seen in Britain, nor did 
the solar ray cast its light through the transparent glass. 
Again, his forbearance : for when in possession of the 
monastery of St. Augustine at Canterbury, he cheerfully 
resigned it to Adrian, when he arrived, not as fearing the 
severity of St. Theodore the archbishop, but bowing to his 
authority. And farther, while long absent abroad, he 
endured not only with temper, but, I may say, with 
magnanimity, the substitution of another abbat, without his 
knowledge, by the monks of Wearmouth ; and on his return, 
admitted him to equal honour with himself, in rank and 
power. Moreover, when stricken so severely with the palsy 
that he could move none of his limbs, he appointed a third 
abbat, because the other, of whom we have spoken, was 
not less affected by the same disease. And when the 
disorder, increasing, was just about to seize his vitals, he 
bade adieu to his companion^ who was brought into his 
presence, with an inclination of the head only ; nor was he 
better able to return the salutation, for he was hastening to 
a still nearer exit, and actually died before Benedict. 

Ceolfrid succeeded, under whom the affairs of the 
monastery flourished beyond measure. When, through 
extreme old age, life ceased to be desirable, he purposed 
going to Rome, that he might pour out, as he hoped, his 
aged soul an offering to the apostles his masters. But failing 
of the object of his desires, he paid the debt of nature at the 
city of Langres. The relics of his bones were in after time 
conveyed to his monastery ; and at the period of the Danish 
devastation, with those of St. Hilda, were taken to Glaston- 
bury, f The merits of these abbats, sufficiently eminent in 

* "... lapidei tabulatus," this seems intended to designate buildings 
with courses of stone in a regular manner, which is also implied by him, 
De Gestis Pontif. lib. iii. f. 148. Bede, whom he here follows, affords no 
assistance as to the precise meaning : he merely states, that Benedict caused 
a church to be erected after the Roman model. 

+ The monks of Glastonbiu-y used all possible means to obtain relics of 
saints. See the curious account of a contention concerning the body of 
St. Dunstan, which those monks asserted they had stolen from Canterbury, 
after it had been burnt by the Danes, in the time of Ethelred, in Whartoni 
Anglia Sacra, vol. ii. p. 222. 

o€f WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKT. [b. r. c. 5, 

themselves, their celebrated pupil, Bede, crowns with 
superior splendour. It is written indeed, " A wise son is the 
glory of his father : " for one of them made him a monk, the 
other educated him. And since Bede himself has given some 
slight notices of these facts, comprising his whole life in a 
kind of summary, it may be allowed to turn to his words, 
which the reader will recognize, lest any variation of the 
style should affect the relation. At the end then of the 
Ecclesiastical History of the English * this man, as praise- 
worthy in other respects as in this, that he withheld nothing 
from posterity, though it might be only a trifling knowledge 
of himself, says thus : 

" I, Bede, the servant of Christ, and priest of the monas- 
tery of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, which is at Wear- 
mouth, have, by God's assistance, arranged these materials 
for the history of Britain. I was born within the posses- 
sions of this monastery, and at seven years of age, was com- 
mitted, by the care of my relations, to the most reverend 
abbat Benedict, to be educated, and, after, to Ceolfrid ; pass- 
ing the remainder of my life from that period in residence 
at the said monastery, I have given up my whole attention 
to the study of the Scriptures, and amid the observance of 
my regular discipline and my daily duty of singing in the 
church, have ever delighted to learn, to teach, or to write. 
In the nineteenth year of my life, I took deacon's, in the 
thirtieth, priest's orders ; both, at the instance of abbat 
Ceolfrid, by the ministry of the most reverend bishop John :"f 
from which time of receiving the priesthood till the fifty- 
ninth year of my age, I have been employed for the benefit 
of myself or of my friends, in making these extracts from 
the works of the venerable fathers, or in making additions, 
according to the form of their sense or interpretation." Then 
enumerating thirty-six volumes which he published in 
seventy-eight books, he proceeds, " And I pray most earnestly, 
merciful Jesus, that thou wouldst grant me, to whom thou 
hast already given the knowledge of thyself, finally to come 
to thee, the fountain of all wisdom, and to appear for ever 
in thy presence. Moreover I humbly entreat all persons, 

* Eccles. Hist., book v. ch. 24. 

+ John of Beverley, bishop of Hexham, a.d. 686. He was made bishop 
of York, A.D. 705, and died 7th of May, 722. See Bede, b. v. c. -2—6. 


whether readers or hearers, whom this history of our nation 
shall reach, that they be mindful to intercede with the divine 
clemency for my infirmities both of mind and of body, and 
that, in their several provinces, they make me this grateful 
return ; that I, who have diligently laboured to record, of 
every province, or of more exalted places, what appeared 
worthy of preservation or agreeable to the inhabitants, may 
receive, from all, the benefit of their pious intercessions." 

Here my abilities fail, here my eloquence falls short ; 
ignorant which to praise most, the number of his writings, 
or the gravity of his style. No doubt he had imbibed a 
large portion of heavenly wisdom, to be able to compose so 
many volumes within the limits of so short a life. Nay, 
they even report, that he went to Rome for the purpose 
either of personally asserting that his writings were con- 
sistent with the doctrines of the church ; or of correcting 
them by apostolical authority, should they be found repug- 
nant thereto. That he went to Rome I do not however 
affirm for fact : but I have no doubt in declaring that he was 
invited thither, as the following epistle will certify ; as well 
as that the see of Rome so highly esteemed him as greatly to 
desire his presence. 

" Sergius the bishop, servarit of the servants of God, to 
Ceolfrid the holy abbat sendeth greeting : — 

'•' With what words, and in what manner, can we declare 
the kindness and unspeakable providence of our God, and 
return fit thanks for his boundless benefits, who leads us, 
when placed in darkness, and the shadow of death, to the 
light of knowledge ?" And below, " Know, that we received 
the favour of the offering which your devout piety hath sent 
by the present bearer, with the same joy and goodwill with 
which it was transmitted. We assent to the timely and be- 
coming prayers of your laudable anxiety with deepest regard, 
and entreat of your pious goodness, so acceptable to God, 
that, since there have occurred certain points of ecclesiastical 
discipline, not to be promulgated without farther examina- 
tion, which have made it necessary for us to confer with a 
person skilled in literature, as becomes an assistant of God's 
holy universal mother-church, you would not delay paying 
ready obedience to this, our admonition ; but would send 
without loss of time, to our lowly presence, at the church of 

58 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. i. c. 3. 

the chief apostles, my lords Peter and Paul, your friends and 
protectors, that religious servant of God, Bede, the venerable 
priest of your monastery ; whom, God willing, you may expect 
to return in safety, when the necessary discussion of the above- 
mentioned points shall be, by God's assistance, solemnly 
completed : for whatever may be added to the church at 
large, by his assistance, will, we trust, be profitable to the 
things committed to your immediate care." 

So extensive was his fame then, that even the majesty of 
Rome itself solicited his assistance in solving abstruse ques- 
tions, nor did Gallic conceit ever find in this Angle any 
thing justly to blame. All the western world yielded the 
palm to his faith and authority ; for indeed he was of sound 
faith, and of artless, yet pleasing eloquence : in all elucida- 
tions of the holy scriptures, discussing those points from 
which the reader might imbibe the love of God, and of his 
neighbour, rather than those which might charm by their 
wit, or polish a rugged style. Moreover the irrefragable 
truth of that sentence, which the majesty of divine wisdom 
proclaimed to the world forbids any one to doubt the sanctity 
of liis life, " Wisdom will not enter the malevolent soul, nor 
dwell in the person of the sinful ;" which indeed is said not 
of earthly wisdom, which is infused promiscuously into the 
hearts of men, and in which, even the wicked, who continue 
their crimes until their last day, seem often to excel, accord- 
ing to the divine expression, " The sons of this world are in 
their generation wiser than the children of light;" but it 
rather describes that wisdom which needs not the assistance 
of learning, and which dismisses from its cogitations those 
things which are void of understanding, that is to say, of the 
understanding of acting and speaking properly. Hence 
Seneca in his book, " De Causis,"* appositely relates that 
Cato, defining the duty of an orator, said, " An orator is a 
good man, skilled in speaking." This ecclesiastical orator, 
then, used to purify his knowledge, that so he might, as far as 
possible, unveil the meaning of mystic writings. How indeed 
could that man be enslaved to vice who gave his whole soul 
and spirit to elucidate the scriptures ? For, as he confesses 
in his third book on Samuel, if his expositions were produc- 
tive of no advantage to his readers, yet were they of cou- 
• Seneca, Controvers. lib. 1. 

AD. 735.] DEATH OF BEDE. 59 

siderable importance to himself, inasmuch as, while fully in- 
tent upon them, he escaped the vanity and empty imagina- 
tions of the times. Purified from vice, therefore, he entered 
within the inner veil, divulging in pure diction the senti- 
ments of his mind. 

But the unspotted sanctity and holy purity of liis heart 
were chiefly conspicuous on the approach of death. Although 
for seven weeks successively, from the indisposition of his 
stomach, he nauseated all food, and was troubled with such a 
difficulty of breathing that his disorder confined him to his 
bed, yet he by no means abandoned his literary avocations. 
During whole days he endeavoured to mitigate the pressure 
of his disorder and to lose the recollection of it by constant 
lectures to his pupils, and by examining and solving abstruse 
questions, in addition to his usual task of psalmody. More- 
over the gospel of St. John, which from its difficulty exer- 
cises the talents of its readers even to the present day, was 
translated by him into the English language, and accommo- 
dated to those who did not understand Latin. Occasionally, 
also, would he admonish his disciples, saying, " Learn, my 
children, while I am with you, for I know not how long I 
shall continue ; and although my Maker should very shortly 
take me hence, and my spirit should return to him that sent 
and granted it to come into this life, yet have I lived long, 
God hath rightly appointed my portion of days, I desire to 
be dissolved and to be with Christ." 

Often too when the balance was poised between hope and 
fear, he would remark " It is a fearful thing to fall into the 
hands of the living God.* I have not passed my life among 
you in such manner as to be ashamed to live, neither do I 
fear to die, because we have a kind Master ;" thus borrowing 
the expression of St. Ambrose when dying. Happy man ! 
who could speak with so quiet a conscience as neither being 
ashamed to live, nor afraid to die ; on the one hand not fear- 
ing the judgment of men, on the other waiting with com- 
posure the hidden will of God. Often, when urged by ex- 
tremity of pain, he comforted himself with these remarks, 
" The furnace tries the gold, and the fire of temptation the 
just man : the sufferings of this present time are not worthy 

• Hebrews x. 31. 

60 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. i. c. 3- 

to be compared to the future glory which shall be revealed in 
us."* Tears and a dijQ3.culty of breathing accompanied his 
words. At night, when there were none to be instructed or 
to note down his remarks, he passed the whole season in 
giving thanks and singing psalms, fulfilling the saying of 
that very wise man,f " that he was never less alone than when 
alone." If at any time a short and disturbed sleep stole upon 
his eye-lids, he immediately shook it off, and showed that his 
affections were always intent on God, by exclaiming " Lift 
me up, O Lord, that the proud calumniate me not. Do with 
thy servant according to thy mercy." These and similar ex- 
pressions which his shattered memory suggested, flowed 
spontaneously from his lips whenever the pain of his agoniz- 
ing disorder became mitigated. But on the Tuesday before 
our Lord's ascension his disease rapidly increased, and there 
appeared a small swelling in his feet, the sure and certain 
indication of approaching death. Then the congregation 
being called together, he was anointed and received the sacra- 
ment. Kissing them all, and requesting from each that they 
would bear him in remembrance, he gave a small present, 
which he had privately reserved, to some with whom he had 
been in closer bonds of friendship. On Ascension day, when 
bis soul, tired of the frail occupation of the body, panted to 
be free, lying down on a hair-cloth near the oratory, where 
he used to pray, with sense unimpaired and joyful counte- 
nance, he invited the grace of the Holy Spirit, saying, " 
King of glory. Lord of virtue, who ascendedst this day trium- 
phant into the heavens, leave us not destitute, but send upon 
us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of truth." This 
prayer ended, he breathed his last, and immediately the senses 
of all were pervaded by an odour such as neither cinnamon 
nor balm could give, but coming, as it were, from paradise, 
and fraught with all the joyous exhalations of spring. At 
that time he was buried in the same monastery, but at pre- 
sent, report asserts that he lies at Durham with St. Cuthbert. 
With this man was buried almost all knowledge of history 
down to our times, inasmuch as there has been no English- 

* Romans viii. 18. 

t Scipio Africanus was accustomed to observe, " that he was never less 
idle than when unoccupied, nor never less alone than when by himself." 
Cicero de Offic. 1. 3. 

A.I). 737, 738.] KING EADBERT. 61 

man either emulous of his pursuits, or a follower of his 
graces, who could continue the thread of his discourse, now 
broken short. Some few indeed, " whom the mild Jesus 
loved," though well skilled in literature, have yet observed an 
ungracious silence throughout their lives ; others, scarcely 
tasting of the stream, have fostered a criminal indolence. 
Thus to the slothful succeeded others more slothful still, 
and the warmth of science for a long time decreased throughout 
the island. The verses of his epitaph will afford sufficient 
specimen of this indolence ; they are indeed contemptible, 
and unworthy the tomb of so great a man : 

" Presbyter hie Beda, requiescit carne sepultus ; 
Dona, Christe, animam in coelis gaudere per sevum : 
Daque illi sophiae debriari fonte, cui jam 
Suspiravit ovans, intento semper amore."* 

Can this disgrace be extenuated by any excuse, that there 
was not to be found even in that monastery, where during 
his lifetime the school of all learning had flourished, a single 
person who could write his epitaph, except in this mean and 
paltry style ? But enough of this : I will return to my 

Ceolwulf thinking it beneath the dignity of a Christian to 
be immersed in earthly things, abdicated the throne after a 
reign of eight years, and assumed the monastic habit at Lin- 
disfarne, in which place how meritoriously he lived, is amply 
testified by his being honourably interred near St. Cuthbert, 
and by many miracles vouchsafed from on high. 

He had made provision against the state's being endan- 
gered, by placing his cousin, Eadbert,f on the throne, which 
he fiUed for twenty years with singular moderation and 
virtue. Eadbert had a brother of the same name, archbishop 
of York, who, by his own prudence and the power of the 
king, restored that see to its original state. For, as is well 
known to any one conversant in the history of the Angles, J 

* These lines are thus rendered into English : 

*^ Beneath this stone Bede's mortal body lies ; 
God grant his soul may rest amid the skies. 
May he drink deeply, in the realms above. 
Of wisdom's fount, which he on earth did love !" 

+ Called Egbert by some wiiters. t Paulinus had departed from 

Northumbria, in consequence of the confusion which prevailed on the death 
of Edwin. Bede, b. ii. c. 20. He died Oct. 10, 644. 

62 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. i. c. 1 

Paulinus, the first prelate of the church of York, had been 
forcibly driven away, and died at Rochester, where he left 
that honourable distinction of the pall which he had received 
from pope Honorius. After him, many prelates of this 
august city, satisfied with the name of a simple bishopric, 
aspired to nothing higher : but when Eadbert was seated on 
the throne, a man of loftier spirit, and one who thought, 
that, " as it is over-reaching to require what is not our due, 
so is it ignoble to neglect our right," he reclaimed the pall 
by frequent appeals to the pope. This personage, if I may 
be allowed the expression, was the depository and receptacle 
of every liberal art ; and founded a most noble library at 
York. For this I cite Alcuin, * as competent witness ; who 
was sent from the kings of England to the emperor Charles 
the Great, to treat of peace, and being hospitably entertained 
by him, observes, in a letter to Eanbald, third in succession 
from Eadbert, " Praise and glory be to God, who hath pre- 
served my days in full prosperity, that I should rejoice in 
the exaltation of my dearest son, who laboured in my stead, 
in the church where I had been brought up and educated, 
and presided over the treasures of wisdom, to which my 
beloved master, archbishop Egbert, left me heir." Thus too 
to Charles Augustus : f " Give me the more polished vo- 
lumes of scholastic learning, such as I used to have in my 
own country, through the laudable and ardent industry of 
my master, archbishop Egbert. And, if it please your wis- 
dom, I will send some of our youths, who may obtain thence 
whatever is necessary, and bring back into France the flow- 
ers of Britain ; that the garden of Paradise may not be con- 
fined to York, but that some of its scions may be transplanted 
to Tours." 

This is the same Alcuin, who, as I have said, was sent 
into France to treat of peace, and during his abode with 
Charles, captivated either by the pleasantness of the country 
or the kindness of the king, settled there ; and being held in 
high estimation, he taught the king, during his leisure from 

♦ Alcuin, a native of Northumbria, and educated at York, through his 
learning and talents became the intimate friend and favourite of Charle- 
magne, for whom he transcribed, with his o^vn hand, the Holy Scriptures. 
This relic is now preserved in the British Museum. 

f See this epistle at length in Alcuini Op, vol. i. p, 52. Epist. 38. 

A.D. 738.] KINGS OF FRANCE. 63 

the cares of state, a thorough knowledge of logic, rhetoric, 
and astronomy. Alcuin was, of all the Angles, of whom I 
have read, next to St. Aldhelm and Bede, certainly the most 
learned, and has given proof of his talents in a variety of 
compositions. He lies buried in France, at the church of 
St. Paul, of Cormaric, * which monastery Charles the Great 
built at his suggestion : on which account, even at the pre- 
sent day, the subsistence of four monks is distributed in 
alms, for the soul of our Alcuin, in that church. 

But since I am arrived at that point where the mention of 
Charles the Great naturally presents itself, I shall subjoin a 
true statement of the descent of the kings of France, of 
which antiquity has said much : nor shall I depart widely 
from my design ; because to be unacquainted with their 
race, I hold as a defect in information ; seeing that they are 
our near neighbours, and to them the Christian world chiefly 
looks up : and, perhaps, to glance over this compendium may 
give pleasure to many who have not leisure to wade through 
voluminous works. 

The Franks were so called, by a Greek appellative, from 
the ferocity of their manners, when, by order of the emperor 
Valentinian the First, they ejected the Alani, who had 
retreated to the Maeotian marshes. It is scarcely possible to 
believe how much this people, few and mean at first, became 
increased by a ten years' exemption from taxes : such, before 
the war, being the condition on which they engaged in it. 
Thus augmenting wonderfully by the acquisition of freedom, 
and first seizing the greatest part of Germany, and next the 
whole of Gaul, they compelled the inhabitants to list under 
their banners. Hence the Lotharingi and Allamanni, and 
other nations beyond the Rhine, who are subject to the 
emperor of Germany, will have themselves more properly to 
be called Franks ; and those whom we suppose Franks, they 
call by an ancient appellative Galwalge, that is to say, Gauls. 
To this opinion I assent ; knowing that Charles the Great, 
whom none can deny to have been king of the Franks, 
always used the same vernacular language with the Franks 
on the other side of the Rhine. Any one who shall read the 

* Others say he was buried at St. Martin's, at Tours, where he died, 
April 18, 804. His works will be included in Patres Ecclesi^ Angu- 


64 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKT. [b. i. c. 3. 

life of Charles will readily admit the truth of my assertion. * 
In the year then of the Incarnate Word 425 the Franks 
were governed by Faramund, their first king. The grand- 
son of Faramund was Meroveus, from whom all the suc- 
ceeding kings of the Franks, to the time of Pepin, were 
called Merovingians. In like manner the sons of the kings 
of the Angles took patronymical appellations from their 
fathers, For instance ; Eadgaring the son of Edgar ; Ead- 
munding the son of Edmund, and the rest in Hke manner ; 
commonly, however, they are called ethelings. The native 
language of the Franks, therefore, partakes of that of the 
Angles, by reason of both nations originating from Germany. 
The Merovingians reigned successfully and powerfully till 
the year of our Lord's incarnation, 687. At that period 
Pepin, son of Ansegise, was made mayor of the palace f 
among the Franks, on the other side of the Rhine. Seizing 
opportunities for veiling his ambitious views, he completely 
subjugated his master Theodoric, the dregs as it were of the 
Merovingians, and to lessen the obloquy excited by the 
transaction, he indulged him with the empty title of king, 
while himself managed every thing, at home and abroad, 
according to his own pleasure. The genealogy of this Pepin, 
both to and from him, is thus traced : Ausbert, the senator, 
on Blithilde, the daughter of Lothaire, the father of Dago- 
bert, begot Arnold : Arnold begot St. Arnulph, bishop of 
Metz : Arnulph begot Flodulph, Walcthise, AjQSchise : Flo- 
dulph begot duke Martin, whom Ebroin slew : Walcthise 
begot the most holy Wandregesil the abbat : duke Anschise 
begot Ansegise : Ansegise begot Pepin. The son of Pepin 
was Carolus Tudites, whom they also call Martel, because he 
beat down the tyrants who were raising up in every part of 
France, and nobly defeated the Saracens, at that time infest- 
ing Gaul. Following the practice of his father, whilst he 
was himself satisfied with the title of earl, he kept the kings 

* The Life of Charlemagne, by Eginhard, who was secretary to that 
monarch. Du Chesne Script. Franc, torn. ii. It is one of the most amus- 
ing books of the period. 

+ The mayors of the palace seem originally to have merely regulated 
the king's household, but by degrees they acquired so much power, that 
Pepin the elder, maternal grandfather of him here mentioned, had already 
become in effect, king of France. They first appear to have usurped 
the regal power under Clevis II. a. d. 638. 


in a state of pupilage. He left two sons, Pepin and Carolo- 
man. Caroloman, from some unknown cause, relinquishing 
the world, took his religious vows at Mount Cassin. Pepin 
was crowned king of the Franks, and patrician of the Ro- 
mans, in the church of St. Denys, hj pope Stephen, the suc- 
cessor of Zachary. For the Constantinopolitan emperors, 
already much degenerated from their ancient valour, giving 
no assistance either to Italy or the church of Rome, which 
had long groaned under the tyranny of the Lombards, this 
pope bewailed the injuries to which they were exposed from 
them to the ruler of the Franks ; wherefore Pepin passing 
the Alps, reduced Desiderius, king of the Lombards, to such 
difficulties, that he restored what he had plundered to the 
church of Rome, and gave surety by oath that he would not 
attempt to resume it. Pepin returning to France after some 
years, died, leaving his surviving children, Charles and 
Caroloman, his heirs. In two years Caroloman departed 
this life. Charles obtaining the name of " Great" from his 
exploits, enlarged the kingdom to twice the limits which it 
possessed in his father's time, and being contented for more 
than thirty years with the simple title of king, abstained 
from the appellation of emperor, though repeatedly invited 
to assume it by pope Adrian. But when, after the death of 
this pontiff, his relations maimed the holy Leo, his successors 
in the church of St. Peter, so as to cut out his tongue, and 
put out his eyes, Charles hastily proceeded to Rome to settle 
the state of the church. Justly punishing these abandoned 
wretches, he stayed there the whole winter, and restored the 
pontiff, now speaking plainly and seeing clearly, by the 
miraculous interposition of God, to liis customary power. 
At that time the Roman people, with the privity of the pon- 
tiff, on the day of our Lord's nativity, unexpectedly hailed 
him with the title of Augustus ; which title, though, from 
its being unusual, he reluctantly admitted, yet afterwards he 
defended with proper spirit against the Constantinopolitan 
emperors, and left it, as hereditary, to his son Louis. His 
descendants reigned in that country, which is now properly 
called France, till the time of Hugh, surnamed Capet, from 
whom is descended the present Louis. From the same stock 
came the sovereigns of Germany and Italy, till the year of 
our Lord 912, when Conrad, king of the Teutonians, seized 



that empire. The grandson of this personage was Otho the 
Great, equal in every estimable quality to any of the em- 
perors who preceded him. Thus admirable for his valour 
and goodness, he left the empire hereditary to liis posterity ; 
for the present Henry, son-in-law of Henry, king of Eng- 
land, derives his lineage from his blood. 

To return to m.y narrative : Alcuin, though promoted by 
Charles the Great to the monastery of St. Martin in France, 
was not unmindful of his countrymen, but exerted himself 
to retain the emperor in amity with them, and stimulated 
them to virtue by frequent epistles. I shall here subjoin 
many of his observations, from which it will appear clearly 
how soon after the death of Bede the love of learning de- 
clined even in his own monastery: and how quickly after 
the decease of Eadbert the kingdom of the Northumbrians 
came to ruin, through the prevalence of degenerate manners. 

He says thus to the monks of Wearmouth, among whom 
Bede had both lived and died, obliquely accusing them of 
having done the very thing which he begs them not to do, 
" Let the youths be accustomed to attend the praises of our 
heavenly King, not to dig up the burrows of foxes, or pursue 
the winding mazes of hares ; let them now learn the Holy 
Scriptures, that, when grown up, they may be able to in- 
struct others. Remember the most noble teacher of our 
times, Bede, the priest, what thirst for learning he had in 
his youth, what praise he now has among men, and what a 
far greater reward of glory with God." Again, to those of 
York he says, " The Searcher of my heart is witness that it 
was not for lust of gold that I came to France or continued 
there, but for the necessities of the church." And thus to 
OfFa, king of the Mercians, " I was prepared to come to you 
with the presents of king Charles and to return to my coun- 
try, but it seemed more advisable to me, for the peace of my 
nation, to remain abroad, not knowing what I could have 
done among those persons, with whom no one can be secure, 
or able to proceed in any laudable pursuit. Behold every 
holy place is laid desolate by Pagans, the altars are polluted 
by perjury, the monasteries dishonoured by adultery, the 
earth itself stained with the blood of rulers and of princes." 
Again, to king Ethelred, third in the sovereignty after Ead- 
bert, " Behold the church of St. Cuthbert is sprinkled with 

A,D. 758.J OSWULPH. 67 

the blood of God's priests, despoiled of all its ornaments, 
and the holiest spot in Britain given up to Pagan nations to 
be plundered ; and where, after the departure of St. Paulinus 
from York, the Christian religion first took its rise in our 
own nation, there misery and calamity took their rise also. 
What portends that shower of blood which in the time ot 
Lent, in the city of York, the capital of the whole kingdom, 
in the church of St. Peter, the chief of the apostles, we saw 
tremendously falling on the northern side of the building 
from the summit of the roof, though the weather was fair ? 
Must not blood be expected to come upon the land from the 
northern regions?" Again, to Osbert, prince of the Mer- 
cians, "Our kingdom of the Northumbrians has almost 
perished through internal dissensions and perjury." So also 
to Athelard, archbishop of Canterbury, "I speak this on 
account of the scourge which has lately fallen on that part 
of our island which has been inhabited by our forefathers 
for nearly three hundred and forty years. It is recorded in 
the writings of Gildas, the wisest of the Britons, that those 
very Britons ruined their country through the avarice and 
rapine of their princes, the iniquity and injustice of their 
judges, their bishops' neglect of preaching, the luxury and 
abandoned manners of the people. Let us be cautious that 
such vices become not prevalent in our times, in order that 
the divine favour may preserve our country to us in that 
happy prosperity for the future which it has hitherto in its 
most merciful kindness vouchsafed us." 

It has been made evident, I think, what disgrace and what 
destruction the neglect of learning and the immoral manners 
of degenerate men brought upon England ! These remarks 
obtain this place in my history merely for the purpose of 
cautioning my readers. 

Eadbert, then, rivalling his brother in piety, assumed the 
monastic habit, and gave place to Oswulph, his son, who 
being, without any cause on his part, slain by his subjects, 
was, after a twelvemonth's reign, succeeded by Moll. Moll 
carried on the government with commendable diligence for 
eleven years,* and then fell a victim to the treachery of 

* Malmesbury differs from all the best authorities, who assign only six 
years to his reign. He ascended the throne a,d. 759, and was expelled 
A.D. 765. 

F 2 

bo WILLIAM OP MALMESBURY. [b. i. c. 3. 

Alcred. Alcred in his tenth year was compelled by his 
countrymen to retire from the government which he had 
usurped. Ethelred too, the son of Moll, being elected king, 
was expelled by them at the end of five years. Alfwold 
was next hailed sovereign ; but he also, at the end of eleven 
years, experienced the perfidy of the inhabitants, for he was 
cut off by assassination, though guiltless, as his distinguished 
interment at Hexham and divine miracles sufficiently declare. 
His nephew, Osred,* the son of Alcred, succeeding him, was 
expelled after the space of a year, and gave place to Ethel- 
red, who was also called Ethelbert. He was the son of 
Moll, also called Ethelwald, and, obtaining the kingdom 
after twelve years of exile, held it during four, at the end 
of which time, unable to escape the fate of his predecessors, 
he was cruelly murdered. At this, many of the bishops and 
nobles greatly shocked, fled from the country. Some indeed 
affirm that he was punished deservedly, because he had as- 
sented to the unjust murder of Osred, whereas he had it in 
his power to quit the sovereignty and restore him to his 
throne. Of the beginning of this reign Alcuin thus speaks : 
"Blessed be God, the only worker of miracles, Ethelred, 
the son of Ethelwald, went lately from the dungeon to the 
throne, from misery to grandeur ; by the infancy of whose 
reign v.^e are detained from coming to you."f Of his death 
he writes f thus to Offa king of the Mercians: "Your es- 
teemed kindness is to understand that my lord, king Charles, 
often speaks to me of you with affection and sincerity, and 
in him you have the firmest friend. He therefore sends 
becoming presents to your love, and to the several sees of 
your kingdom. In like manner he had appointed presents 
for king Ethelred, and for the sees of his bishops, but, oh, 
dreadful to think, at the very moment of despatching these 
gifts and letters there came a sorrowful account, by the 

• Osred, through a conspiracy of his nobles, had been deposed, and, 
after receiving the tonsure, was compelled to go into exile. Two years 
after, induced by the promises and oaths of certain of the Northumbrian 
chiefs, he returned, but being deserted by his forces, he was made prisoner 
and put to death by the order of Ethelred. Sim. Dunelm. a.d. 790 — 2. 
Osred was expelled from his kingdom, a.d. 790, and Ethelred was restored 
after an exile of twelve years. — Hardy. 

f This letter is not yet published in Alcuini Opera. 

X Epist. xlii. Op. torn. i. p. 57. 

A.i>. 79C— 827.] KING EGBERT. 69 

ambassadors who returned out of Scotland through your 
country, of the faithlessness of the people, and the death 
of the king. So that Charles, withholding his liberal gift?-, 
is so highly incensed against that nation as to call it per- 
fidious and perverse, and the murderer of its sovereigns, 
esteeming it worse than pagan; and had I not interceded 
he would have already deprived them of every advantage 
within his reach, and have done them all the injury in his 

After Ethelred no one durst ascend the throne;* each 
dreading the fate of his predecessor, and preferring a life 
of safety in inglorious ease, to a tottering reign in anxious 
suspense : for most of the Northumbrian kings had ended 
their reigns by a death which was now become almost 
habitual. Thus being without a sovereign for thirty-three 
years, that province became an object of plunder and con- 
tempt to its neighbours. For when the Danes, who, as I 
have before related from the words of Alcuin, laid waste 
the holy places, on their return home represented to their 
countrymen the fruitfulness of the island, and the indolence 
of its inhabitants ; these barbarians came over hastily, in 
great numbers, and obtained forcible possession of that part 
of the country, till the time we are speaking of : indeed they 
had a king of their own for many years, though he was sub- 
ordinate to the authority of the king of the West Saxons. 
However, after the lapse of these thirty-three years, king 
Egbert obtained the sovereignty of this province, as well as 
of the others, in the year of our Lord's incarnation 827, and 
the twenty-eighth of his reign. And since we have reached 
his times, mindful of our engagement, we shall speak briefly 
of the kingdom of the Mercians ; and this, as well because 
we admire brevity in relation, as that there is no great 
abundance of materials. 

* This is not quite correct : Osbald was elected by a party to succeed 
him ; but after a very short period he was deposed, and the government 
devolved on Eardulf. Eardulf after a few years was driven into exile; 
went to Rome, and, it would seem, was restored to his kingdom, by the 
influence of Charlemagne, a.d. 808. V. Sim. Dunelm. col. 117, and 
Eginhardi Annales, Duchesne, 2, 255. 

to WILLIAM OP MALMESBURY. [b. i c. 4. 


Of the kings of the Mercians, [a.d. 626 — 874.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 626, and the hundred 
and thirty-ninth after the death of Hengist, Penda the son 
of Pybba, tenth in descent of Woden, of noble lineage, ex- 
pert in war, but at the same time an irreligious heathen, at 
the age of fifty assumed the title* of king of the Mercians, 
after he had already fostered his presumption by frequent 
incursions on his neighbours. Seizing the sovereignty, 
therefore, with a mind loathing quiet and unconscious how 
great an enormity it was even to be victorious in a contest 
against his own countrymen, he began to attack the neigh- 
bouring cities, to invade the confines of the surrounding 
kings, and to fill everything with terror and confusion. For 
what would not that man attempt, who, by his lawless dar- 
ing, had extinguished those luminaries of Britain, Edwin 
and Oswald, kings of the Northumbrians, Sigebert, Ecgric, 
and Anna, kings of the East Angles ; men, in whom nobility 
of race was equalled by sanctity of life ? Kenwalk also, 
king of the West Saxons, after being frequently harassed 
by him, was driven into exile; though, perhaps, he deser- 
vedly paid the penalty of his perfidy towards God, in deny- 
ing his faith ; and towards Penda himself, in repudiating his 
sister. It is irksome to relate, how eagerly he watched op- 
portunities of slaughter, and as a raven flies greedily at the 
scent of a carcase, so he joined Cadwalla,j' and was of in- 
finite service to him, in recovering his dominions. In this 
manner, for thirty years, he attacked his countrymen, but 
did nothing worthy of record against strangers. His insa- 
tiable desires, however, at last found an end suitable to their 
deserts ; for being routed, with his allies, by Oswy, who had 
succeeded his brother Oswald, more through the assistance 

• It would appear that Penda was not the first king, but the first of 
any note. Hen. Huntingdon assigns the origin of the kingdom to about 
the year 584 under Crida, who was succeecled, in the year 600, by Pybba; 
Ceorl came to the throne in 610, and Penda in 626. See H. Hunt, 
f. 181, 184— b. 

f King of the Britons, see Bede, b. ii. ch. 20. It was by his assistance 
that Cadwalla defeated Edwin, king of Northumbria, at Hatfield, Oct. 12, 
A.D. 633. 

AD 655—661.] PEADA — ^WULFHERE. 71 

of God thau Ills military powers, Penda increased the num- 
ber of infernal spirits. By his queen Kyneswith his sons 
were Peada, Wulfhere, Ethelred, Merwal, and Mercelin: 
his daughters, Kyneburg, and Kyneswith ; both distinguished 
for inviolable chastity. Thus the parent, though ever re- 
bellious towards God, produced a most holy offspring for 

His son Peada succeeded him in a portion of the kingdom, 
by the permission of Oswy, advanced to the government of 
the South Mercians ; a young man of talents, and even in 
his father's lifetime son-in-law to Oswy. For he had re- 
ceived his daughter, on condition of renouncing paganism 
and embracing Christianity; in which faith he would soon 
have caused the province of participate, the peaceful state 
of the kingdom and his father-in-law's consent tending to 
such a purpose, had not his death, hastened, as they say, by 
the intrigues of his Avife, intercepted these joyful prospects. 
Then Oswy resumed the government, which seemed rightly 
to appertain to him from liis victory over the father, and 
from his affinity to the son. The spirit, however, of tne 
inhabitants could not brook his authority more than three 
years ; for they expelled his generals, and Wulfhere, the 
son of Penda, being hailed as his successor, the province 
recovered its liberty. 

Wulfhere, that he might not disappoint the hopes of the 
nation, began to act with energy, to show himself an efficient 
prince by great exertions both mental and personal, and 
finally to afford Christianity, introduced by his brother and 
yet hardly breathing in his kingdom, every possible assist- 
ance. In the early years of liis reign he was heavily op- 
pressed by the king of the West Saxons, but in succeeding 
times, repelling the injury by the energy of his measures, he 
deprived him of the sovereignty of the Isle of Wight ; and 
leading it, yet panting after heathen rites, into the proper 
path, he soon after bestowed it on his godson, Ethelwalch, 
king of the South Saxons, as a recompence for his faith. 
But these and all his other good quahties are stained and 
deteriorated by the dreadful brand of simony; because he, 
first of the kings of the Angles, sold the sacred bishopric 
of London to one Wini, an ambitious man. His wife was 
Ermenhilda, the daughter of Erconbert, king of Kent, of 

72 WILLLA3I OF MALMESBTJKY, [b. i. c. 4. 

whom he begat Kinred, and Wereburga, a most holy virgin 
who lies buried at Chester. His brother Merewald married 
Ermenburga, the daughter of Ermenred, brother of the same 
Ereonbert ; by her he had issue, three daughters ; Milburga, 
who lies at Weneloch ; Mildritha in Kent, in the monastery 
of St. Augustine ; and Milgitha : and one son, Merefin. Al- 
frid king of the Northumbrians married Kyneburg, daughter 
of Penda.: who, after a time, disgusted with wedlock, took 
the habit of a nun in the monastery which her brothers, 
Wulfhere and Ethelred, had founded. 

Wulf here died at the end of nineteen years, and his bro- 
ther Ethelred ascended the throne ; more famed for his pious 
disposition than his skill in war. Moreover he was satisfied 
with displaying his valour in a single but illustrious expe- 
dition into Kent, and passed the remainder of his life in 
quiet, except that attacking Egfrid, king of the Northum- 
brians, who had passed beyond the limits of his kingdom, 
he admonished him to return home, by the murder of his 
brother Elfwin. He atoned however for this slaughter, 
after due deliberation, at the instance of St. Theodore, the 
archbishop, by giving Egfrid a large sum of money.* Sub- 
sequently to this, in the thirtieth year of his reign, he took 
the cowl, and became a monk at Bardney, of which monas- 
tery he was ultimately promoted to be abbat. This is the 
same person who was contemporary with Ina, king of the 
West Saxons, and confirmed by his authority also the privi- 
lege which St. Aldhelm brought from Rome. His wife was 
Ostritha, sister of Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, by 
whom she had issue a son named Ceolred. 

He appointed Kenred, the son of his brother Wulfhere his 
successor, who, equally celebrated for piety to God and 
uprightness towards his subjects, ran his mortal race with 
great purity of manners, and proceeding to Rome in the 
fifth year of his reign, passed the remainder of his life there 
in the offices of religion ; chiefly instigated to this by the 
melancholy departure of a soldier, who, as Bede relates, f 

* This was by paying to his relatives his weregild, or the legal price of 
his blood; for all, from the king to the slave, had their established value. 
One moiety, only, of the weregild went to the family of the murdered 
person ; the other went into the public purse. 

t Ethelbald had been frequently exhorted by the king to make con- 
fession of his transgressions, but had constantly declined it. At last being 

AD 7C9— 756.] Boniface's epistle. 73 

disdaining to confess his crimes when in health, saw, 
manifestly, when at the point of death, those very demons 
coming to punish him to whose vicious allurements he had 
surrendered his soul. 

After him reigned Ceolred, the son of Ethelred his uncle, 
as conspicuous for his valour against Ina, as pitiable for an 
early death ; for not filling the throne more than eight years, 
he was buried at Lichfield, leaving Ethelbald, the grand- 
nephew of Penda by his brother Alwy, his heir. This king, 
enjoying the sovereignty in profound and long-continued 
peace, that is, for the space of forty-one years, was ultimately 
killed by his subjects, and thus met with a reverse of fortune. 
Bernred, the author of his death, left nothing worthy of 
record, except that afterwards, being himself put to death by 
Offa, he received the just reward of his treachery. To this 
Ethelbald, Boniface,* archbishop of Mentz, an Angle by 
nation, who was subsequently crowned with martyrdom, sent 
an epistle, part of wliicli I shall transcribe, that it may 
appear how freely he asserts those very vices to have already 
gained ground among the Angles of which Alcuin in after 
times Avas apprehensive. It will also be a strong proof, by 
the remarkable deaths of certain kings, how severely God 
punishes those guilty persons for whom his long-suspended 
anger mercifully waits. 

f " To Ethelbald^ my dearest lord, and to be preferred to 
all other kings of the Angles, in the love of Christ, Boniface 
the archbishop, legate to Germany from the church of Rome, 

seized with sickness, he appears to have imagined that he saw two angels 
approach with a very small volume, in which were written the iew good 
actions he had ever performed ; when immediately a large company of 
demons advancing, display another book of enormous bulk and weight, 
containing all his evil deeds, which are read to him ; after which, asserting 
their claim to the sinner against the angels, they strike him on the head and 
feet, as symptoms of his approaching end. Bede, b. v. c. 13. 

* Boniface, whose original name was Winfred, after unwearied labour ia 
the conversion of various nations in Germany, by which he acquired the 
honourable appellation of Apostle of the Germans, at length suffered 
martyrdom in Friesland. A collected edition of his works forms volumes 
XV. and xvi. of Patres Ecclest^ Anglicans by the editor of this work. 
One of the original churches, built by him in Saxony, still exists in the 
Duchy of Gotha, at a little village called Gicrstedt. 

t See this epistle at length in Spelmanni Concilia, vol. i. page 232, and 
reprinted by Wilkins, Concilia, i. 87, also in Bonifacii Opera, &.c. 


wisheth, perpetual health in Christ. We confess before God 
that when we hear of your prosperity, your faith, and good 
works, we rejoice ; and if at any time we hear of any 
adversity befallen you, either in the chance of war or the 
jeopardy of your soul, we are afflicted. We have heard that, 
devoted to almsgiving, you prohibit theft and rapine, are a 
lover of peace, a defender of widows, and of the poor ; and 
for this we give God thanks. Your contempt for lawful 
matrimony, were it for chastity's sake, would be laudable ; 
but since you wallow in luxury and even in adultery with 
nuns, it is disgraceful and damnable ; it dims the brightness 
of your glory before God and man, and transforms you into 
an idolater, because you have polluted the temple of God. 
Wherefore, my beloved son, repent, and remember how 
dishonourable it is, that you, who, by the grant of God, are 
sovereign over many nations, should yourself be the slave of 
lust to his disservice. Moreover, we have heard that almost 
all the nobles of the Mercian kingdom, following your 
example, desert their lawful wives and live in guilty 
intercourse with adultresses and nuns. Let the custom of a 
foreign country teach you how far distant this is from 
rectitude. For in old Saxony, where there is no knowledge 
of Christ, if a virgin in her father's house, or a married 
woman under the protection of her husband, should be guilty 
of adultery, they burn her, strangled by her own hand, and 
hang up her seducer over the grave where she is buried ; or 
else, cutting off her garments to the waist, modest matrons 
whip her and pierce her with knives, and fresh tormentors 
punish her in the same manner as she goes from town to 
town, till they destroy her. Again the Winedi,* the basest 
of nations, have this custom — the wife, on the death of her 
husband, casts herself on the same funeral pile to be 
consumed with him. If then the gentiles, who know not 
God, have so zealous a regard for chastity, how much more 
ought you to possess, my beloved son, who are both a 
Christian and a king ? Spare therefore your own soul, spare 
a multitude of people, perishing by your example, for whose 
souls you must give account. Give heed to this too, if the 
nation of the Angles, (and we are reproached in France and 

* The Winedi were seated on the western bank of the Vistula, near the 
Baltic. In Wilkins, it is " apud Persas," among the Persians. 

A.D. 75G.] Boniface's epistle. 75 

in Italy and by the very pagans for it,) despising lawful 
matrimony, give free indulgence to adultery, a race ignoble 
and despising God must necessarily proceed from such a 
mixture, which will destroy the country by their abandoned 
manners, as was the case with the Burgundians, Proven9als, 
and Spaniards, whom the Saracens harassed for many years 
on account of their past transgressions. Moreover, it has 
been told us, that you take away from the churches and 
monasteries many of their privileges, and excite, by your 
example, your nobility to do the like. But recollect, I 
entreat you, what terrible vengeance God hath inflicted upon 
former kings, guilty of the crime we lay to your charge. 
For Ceolred, your predecessor, the debaucher of nuns, the 
infringer of ecclesiastical privileges, was seized, while 
splendidly regaling with his nobles, by a malignant spirit, 
who snatched away his soul without confession and without 
communion, while in converse with the devil and despising 
the law of God. He drove Osred also, king of the Deirans 
and Bernicians, who was guilty of the same crimes, to such 
excess that he lost his kingdom and perished in early 
manhood by an ignominious death. Charles also, governor 
of the Franks, the subverter of many monasteries and the 
appropriator of ecclesiastical revenues to his own use, 
perished by excruciating pain and a fearful death." And 
afterwards, "Wherefore, my beloved son, we entreat with 
paternal and fervent prayers that you would not despise the 
counsel of your fathers, who, for the love of God, anxiously 
appeal to your highness. For nothing is more salutary to a 
good king than the willing correction of such crimes when 
they are pointed out to him ; since Solomon says ' Whoso 
loveth instruction, loveth wisdom.' Wherefore, my dearest 
son, showing you good counsel, we call you to Avitness, and 
entreat you by the living God, and his Son Jesus Christ, 
and by the Holy Spirit, that you would recollect how 
fleeting is the present life, how short and momentary is the 
delight of the filthy flesh, and how ignominious for a person 
of transitory existence to leave a bad example to posterity. 
Begin therefore to regulate your life by better habits, and cor- 
rect the past errors of your youth, that you may have praise 
before men here, and be blest with eternal glory hereafter. 
We wish your Highness health and proficiency in virtue." 

76 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. [b- i- c- 4- 

I have inserted in my narrative portions of this epistle, 
to give sufficient knowledge of these circumstances, partly in 
the words of the author and partly in my own, shortening 
the sentences as seemed proper, for which I shall easily be 
be excused, because there was need of brevity for the sake of 
those who were eager to resume the thread of the history. 
Moreover, Boniface transmitted an epistle of like import to 
archbishop Cuthbert, adding that he should remonstrate 
with the clergy and nuns on the fineness and vanity of their 
dress. Besides, that he might not wonder at his interfering 
in that in which he had no apparent concern, that is to say, 
how or with what manners the nation of the Angles con- 
ducted itself, he gave him to understand, that he had bound 
himself by oath to pope Gregory the Third, not to conceal 
the conduct of the nations near him from the knowledge of 
the apostoUcal see ; wherefore, if mild measures failed of suc- 
cess, he should take care to act in such manner, that vices of 
this kind should not be kept secret from the pope. Indeed, 
on account of the fine texture of the clerical vestments, 
Alcuin obliquely glances at Athelard the archbishop, Cuth- 
bert's successor, reminding him that, when he should come 
to Rome to visit the emperor Charles the Great, the grandson 
of Charles of whom Boniface was speaking above, he should 
not bring the clergy or monks dressed in party-coloured or 
gaudy garments, for the clergy amongst the Franks dressed 
only in ecclesiastical habits. 

Nor could the letters of so great a man, which he was 
accustomed to send from watchful regard to his legation 
and pure love of his country, be without effect. For both 
Cuthbert, the archbishop, and king Ethelbald summoned a 
council for the purpose of retrenching the superfluities which 
he had stigmatised. The acts of this synod, veiled in a 
multiplicity of words, I shall forbear to add, as I think they 
will better accord with another part of my work, when I 
come to the succession of the bishops : but as I am now on 
the subject of kingly affairs, I shall subjoin a charter of 
Ethelbald's, as a proof of his devotion, because it took place 
in the same council. 

" It often happens, through the uncertain change of times, 
that those things which have been confirmed by the testi- 
mony and advice of many faithful persons, have been made' 

A.D. 749—777.] LULLUS OFFA. 77 

of none effect by the contumacy of very many, or by the 
artifices of deceit, without any regard to justice, unless they 
have been committed to eternal memory by the authority of 
writing and the testimony of charters. Wherefore I Ethel- 
bald, king of the Mercians, out of love to heaven and regard 
for my own soul, have felt the necessity of considering how 
I may, by good works, set it free from every tie of sin. For 
since the Omnipotent God, through the greatness of his 
clemency, without any previous merit on my part, hath be- 
stowed on me the sceptre of government, therefore I willingly 
repay him out of that which he hath given. On this account 
I grant, so long as I live, that all monasteries and churches 
of my kingdom shall be exempted from public taxes, works, 
and impositions, except the building of forts and bridges, 
from which none can be released. And moreover the ser- 
vants of God shall have perfect liberty in the produce of 
their woods and lands, and the right of fishing, nor shall they 
bring presents either to king or princes except voluntarily, 
but they shall serve God without molestation." 

Lullus* succeeded Boniface, an Englishman by birth also ; 
of whose sanctity mention is made in the life of St. Goar, 
and these verses, which I remember to have heard from my 
earliest childhood, bear witness : 

" Lullus, than whom no holier prelate lives. 
By God's assistance healing medicine gives, 
Cures each disorder by his powerful hand, 
And with his glory overspreads the land." 

However, to return to my history, Offa, descended from 
Penda in the fifth degree, succeeded Ethelbald. He was a 
a man of great mind, and one who endeavoured to bring to 
effect whatever he had preconceived ; he reigned thirty-nine 
years. When I consider the deeds of this person, I am 
doubtful whether I should commend or censure. At one 
time, in the same character, vices were so palliated by virtues, 
and at another virtues came in such quick succession upon 
vices that it is difficult to determine how to characterize the 
changing Proteus. My narrative shall give examples of 
each. Engaging in a set battle with Cynewulf, king of the 

* Lullus was appointed his successor by Boniface, on setting out for 
Friesland, in 755 ; he died a.d. 785. 


West Saxons, lie easily gained the victory, though the other 
was a celebrated warrior. When he thought artifice would 
better suit his purpose, this same man beheaded king Ethel- 
bert, who had come to him through the allurement of great 
jromises, and was at that very time within the walls of his 
palace, soothed into security by his perfidious attentions, and 
then unjustly seized upon the kingdom of the East Angles 
which Ethelbert had held. 

The relics of St. Alban, at that time obscurely buried, he 
ordered to be reverently taken up and placed in a shrine, 
decorated to the fullest extent of royal munificence, with 
gold and jewels ; a church of most beautiful workmanship 
was there erected, and a society of monks assembled. Yet 
rebellious against God, he endeavoured to remove the archi- 
episcopal see formerly settled at Canterbury, to Lichfield, 
envying^ forsooth, the men of Kent the dignity of the arch- 
bishopric : on which account he at last deprived Lambert, 
the archbishop, worn out with continual exertion, and who 
produced many edicts of the apostolical see, both ancient and 
modern, of all possessions within his territories, as well as 
of the jurisdiction over the bishoprics. From pope Adrian, 
therefore, whom he had wearied with plausible assertions for 
a long time, as many things not to be granted may be gradu- 
ally drawn and artfully wrested from minds intent on other 
occupations, he obtained that there should be an archbishopric 
of the Mercians at Lichfield, and that all the prelates of the 
Mercians should be subject to that province. Their names 
were as follow : Denebert, bishop of Worcester, Werenbert, 
of Leicester, Edulph, of Sidnacester, Wulpheard, of Here- 
ford ; and the bishops of the East Angles, Alpheard, of Elm- 
ham, Tidfrid, of Dunwich ; the bishop of Lichfield was 
named Aldulph. Four bishops however remained suffragan 
to Lambert, archbishop of Canterbury, London, Winchester, 
Rochester, and Selsey. Some of these bishoprics are now in 
being, some are removed to other places, others consolidated 
by venal interest, for Leicester, Sidnacester, and Dunwich, 
from somfe unknown cause, are no longer in existence. Nor 
did Offii's rapacity stop here, for he showed himself a down- 
right pubHc pilferer, by converting to his own use the lands 
of many churches, of which Malmesbury was one. But this 
iniquity did not long deform canonical institutions, for soon 

A-D-790.] kenulf's epistle. 79 

after Kenulf, Offa's successor, inferior to no preceding king 
in power or in faith, transmitted a letter to Leo, the successor 
of Adrian, and restored Athelard who had succeeded Lambert, 
to his former dignity. Hence Alcuin, in an epistle to the 
same Athelard, says " Having heard of the success of your 
journey, and your return to your country, and how you were 
received by the pope, I give thanks with every sentiment of 
my heart to the Lord our God, who, by the precious gift of 
his mercy, directed your way with a prosperous progress, 
gave you favour in the sight of the pope, granted you to 
return home with the perfect accomplishment of your wishes, 
and hath condescended, through you, to restore the holiest 
seat of our first teacher to its pristine dignity." I think it 
proper to subjoin part of the king's epistle and also of the 
pope's, though I may seem by so doing to anticipate the 
regular order of time ; but I shall do it on this account, that 
it is a task of greater difficulty to blend together disjointed 
facts than to despatch those I had begun. 

" To the most holy and truly loving lord Leo, pontiff of 
the sacred and apostolical see, Kenidf, by the grace of God 
king of the Mercians, ivith the bishops, princes, and every 
degree of dignity under our authority, sendeth the salutation 
of the purest love in Christ. 

a Yie give thanks ever to God Almighty, who is wont, by 
the means of new guides, the former being taken to the life 
eternal, to guide the church, purchased by his precious 
blood, amid the diverse storms of this world, to the haven of 
salvation, and to shed fresh light upon it, in order that it be 
led into no error of darkness, but may pursue the path of 
truth without stumbling ; wherefore the universal church 
justly rejoices, that when the true rewarder of all good men 
took the most glorious pastor of his flock, Adrian, to be eter- 
nally rewarded in heaven, still his kind providence gave a 
shepherd to his flock, not less skilled, to conduct the sheep 
of God into the fold of life. We also, who live on the 
farthest confines of the world, justly boast, beyond all other 
things, that the church's exaltation is our safety, its pros- 
perity our constant ground of joy ; since your apostolical 
dignity and our true faith originate from the same source. 
Whentfore I deem it fitting to incline the ear of our obe- 
dience, with all due humility, to your holy commands, and 

8b WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. {li. i. c. i. 

to fulfil, with every possible endeavour, what shall seem just 
to your piety for us to accomplish : but to avoid, and utterly 
reject, all that shall be found inconsistent with right. But 
now, I, Kenulf, by the grace of God king, humbly entreat 
your excellence that I may address you as I wish, without 
offence, on the subject of our progress, that you may receive 
me with peaceful tranquillity into the bosom of your piety, 
and that the liberal bounty of your benediction may quahfy 
me, gifted with no stock of merit, to rule my people ; in 
order that God may deign, through your intercession, to de- 
fend the nation, which, together with me, your apostolical 
authority has instructed in the rudiments of the faith, against 
all attacks of adversaries, and to extend that kingdom which 
he hath given. This benediction all the Mercian kings be- 
fore me were, by your predecessors, deemed worthy to ob- 
tain. This, I humbly beg, and this, most holy man, I 
desire to receive, that you would more especially accept me 
as a son by adoption, as I love you as my father, and always 
honour you with all possible obedience. For among such 
great personages faith ever should be kept inviolate, as well 
as perfect love, because paternal love is to be looked upon as 
filial happiness in God, according to the saying of Hezekiah, 
* A fjither will make known thy truth to his sons, O Lord.' 
In which words I implore you, O loved father, not to deny 
to your unworthy son the knowledge of the Lord in your 
holy words, in order that, by your sound instruction, I may 
deserve, by the assistance of God, to come to a better course 
of life. And moreover, O most affectionate father, we beg, 
with all our bishops, and every person of rank among us, 
that, concerning the many inquiries on which we have 
thought it right to consult your wisdom, you would cour- 
teously reply, lest the traditions of the holy fathers and their 
instructions should, through ignorance, be misunderstood by 
us ; but let your reply reach us in charity and meekness, 
that, through the mercy of God, it may bring forth fruit in 
us. The first thing our bishops and learned men allege is, 
that, contrary to the canons and papal constitutions enacted 
for our use by the direction of the most holy father Gregory, 
as you know, the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Canter- 
bury is divided into two provinces, to whose power, by the 
same father's command, twelve bishops ought to be subject, 

A.D.790.] kenulf's epistle. ' 81 

as is read througliout our churches, in the letter which he 
directed to his brother and fellow bishop, Augustine, con- 
cerning the two metropolitans of London and York, which 
letter doubtlessly you also possess. But that pontifical dig- 
nity, which was at that time destined to London, with the 
honour and distinction of the pall, was, for his sake, removed 
and granted to Canterbury. For since Augustine, of blessed 
memory, who, at the command of St. Gregory, preached the 
word of God to the nation of the Angles, and so gloriously 
presided over the church of the Saxons, died in that city, 
and liis body was buried in the church of St. Peter, the chief 
of apostles, which his successor St. Laurentius consecrated, 
it seemed proper to the sages of our nation, that the metro- 
politan dignity should reside in that city where rests the 
body of the man who planted the true faith in these parts. 
The honour of this pre-eminence, as you know, king Offa 
first attempted to take away and to divide it into two pro- 
vinces, through enmity against the venerable Lambert and 
the Kentish people ; and your pious brother and predecessor, 
Adrian, at the request of the aforesaid king, first did what 
no one had before presumed, and honoured the prelate of the 
Mercians with the pall. But yet we blame neither of these 
persons, whom, as we believe, Christ crowns with eternal 
glory. Nevertheless we humbly entreat your excellence, on 
whom God hath deservedly conferred the key of wisdom, 
that you would consult with your counsellors on this subject, 
and condescend to transmit to us what may be necessary for 
us to observe hereafter, and what may tend to the unity of 
real peace, as we wish, through your sound doctrine, lest the 
coat of Christ, woven throughout without seam, should suffer 
any rent among us. We have written this to you, most holy 
father, with equal humility and regard, earnestly entreating 
your clemency, that you would kindly and justly reply to 
those things which have been of necessity submitted to you. 
Moreover we wish that you would examine, with pious love, 
that epistle which, in the presence of all our bishops, 
Athelard the archbishop wrote to you more fully on the sub- 
ject of his own aff'airs and necessities, as well as on those of 
all Britain ; that whatever the rule of faith requires in those 
matters wliich are contained therein, you would condescend 
truly to explain. Wherefore last year I sent my own em- 



bassy, and that of the bishops by Wada the abbat, which he 
received, but idly and foolishly executed. I now send you a 
small present as a token of regard, respected father, by 
Birine the priest, and Fildas and Ceolbert, my servants, that 
is to say, one hundred and twenty mancuses, * together with 
letters, begging that you would condescend to receive them 
kindly, and give us your blessing. May God Almighty long 
preserve you safe to the glory of his holy church." 

" To the most excellent prince, my son Kenulf, king of 
the Mercians, of the province of the Saxons, pope Leo 
sendeth greeting. Our most holy and reverend brother 
Athelard, archbishop of Canterbury, arriving at the holy 
churches of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, as well for 
the faithful performance of his vow of prayer as to acquaint 
us with the cause of his ecclesiastical mission to the aposto- 
lical see, hath brought to us the enclosures of your royal ex- 
cellence, where finding, in two epistles filled with true faith, 
your great humility, we return thanks to Almighty God, who 
hath taught and inclined your most prudent excellence to 
have due regard with us in all things towards St. Peter, the 
chief of apostles, and to submit with meekness to all apostoli- 
cal constitutions. Moreover, in one of these epistles we find 
that, were it requisite, you would even lay down your life 
for us, for the sake of our apostolical office. And again, you 
confess that you rejoice much in the Lord at our prosperity, 
and that when these our letters of kindest admonition reach 
the ears of your cordiality, you will receive them with all 
humility and spiritual joy of heart, as sons do the gift of a 
father. It is added too that you had ordered a small present 
out of your abundance to be offered to us, an hundred and 
twenty mancuses, which, with ardent desire for the salva- 
tion of your soul, we have accepted. The aforesaid arch- 
bishop, with his attendants, has been honourably and kindly 
received by us, and has been rendered every necessary assist- 
ance. In the meantime, trusting to your most prudent ex- 
cellence when you observe, even in your own royal letters, 
that no Christian can presume to run counter to our aposto- 

* The value of the mancus is doubtful ; sometimes it appears to mean 
the same with the mark, at others it is supposed equal to thirty pence of 
the money of that time. The gold manca is supposed to be eight to the 
pound, which was probably the coin sent to the pope. 


lical decisions, we therefore endeavour, witli all possible dili- 
gence, to transmit and ordain what shall be of service to your 
kingdom, that as a canonical censure enjoins your royal ex- 
cellence, and all the princes of your nation, and the whole 
people of God, to observe all things which the aforesaid 
archbishop Athelard our brother, or the whole body of the 
evangelical and apostolical doctrine and that of the holy 
fathers and of our predecessors the holy pontiffs ordain, you 
ought by no means to resist their orthodox doctrine in any 
thing, as our Lord and Saviour says in the Gospel, " He who 
receiveth you receiveth me," and " he who receives a prophet, 
in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward." 
And how much more do we praise the Almighty for this 
same lord archbishop, whom you have so highly commended 
to us as being, what he really is, honourable, and skilful, 
and prudent, of good morals, worthy before God and men. 
O loving son and excellent king, we praise God, that hath 
pointed out to you a prelate who, like a true shepherd, is able 
to prescribe due penance, according to the doctrine of the 
holy Scriptures, and to rescue the souls of those who are 
under his sacerdotal authority from the nethermost hell, 
snatching them from inextinguishable fire, bringing them 
into the haven of salvation, and offering for them to God 
Almighty a sacrifice, fit and pure in the sight of the Divine 
Majesty. And since the aforesaid archbishop hath pleased 
us extremely in every respect, in all holiness and conversa- 
tion of life, confiding much to him, we give him such pre- 
latical power by the authority of St. Peter, the chief of the 
apostles, whose office, though unworthily, we fill, that if any 
in his province, as well kings and princes as people, shall 
transgress the commandments of the Lord, he shall excom- 
municate him until he repent ; and if he remain impenitent, 
let him be to you as an heathen and a publican. But with 
respect to the aforesaid Athelard, archbishop of Canterbury, 
since your excellent prelates have demanded from us that we 
do him justice concerning the jurisdiction which he lately 
held, as well of bishops as monasteries, and of which he has 
been unjustly deprived, as you know, and which have been 
taken from his venerable see : we, making most dihgent 
search, have found in our sacred depository, that St. Gregory, 
our predecessor, dehvered that diocese to his deputed arch- 


84 ' WILLIAM OF MALMESBHRY. [b. i. c. 4. 

bishop St. Augustine, with the right of consecrating bishops, 
to the full number of twelve. Hence we also, having ascer- 
tained the truth, have, by our apostolical authority, placed all 
ordinations or confirmations on their ancient footing, and do 
restore them to him entire, and we deliver to him the grant 
of our confirmation, to be duly observed by his church, 
according to the sacred canons." 

In the meantime Offa, that the outrages against his 
countrymen might not secretly tend to his disadvantage, in 
order to conciliate the favour of neighbouring kings, gave 
his daughter Eadburga in marriage to Bertric, king of 
the West Saxons ; and obtained the amity of Charles the 
Great, king of the Franks, by repeated embassies, though 
he could find little in the disposition of Charles to second 
his views. They had disagreed before, insomuch that violent 
feuds having arisen on both sides, even the intercourse of 
traders was prohibited. There is an epistle of Alcuin to 
this efiect, part of which I shall subjoin, as it affords a strong 
proof of the magnanimity and valour of Charles, who spent 
all his time in war against the Pagans, rebels to God. He 
says,* " The ancient Saxons and all the Friesland nations 
were converted to the faith of Christ through the exertions 
of king Charles, urging some with threats, and others with 
rewards. At the end of the year the king made an attack 
upon the Sclavonians and subjugated them to his power. 
The Avares, whom we call Huns, made a furious attempt 
upon Italy, but were conquered by the generals of the afore- 
said most Christian king, and returned home with disgrace. 
In like manner they rushed against Bavaria, and were again 
overcome and dispersed by the Christian army. Moreover 
the princes and commanders of the same most Christian 
king took great part of Spain from the Saracens, to the ex- 
tent of three hundred miles along the sea coast : but, O 
shame ! these accursed Saracens, who are the Hagarens, 
have dominion over the whole of Africa, and the larger part 
of Asia Major. I know not what will be our destination, for 
some ground of difference, fomented by the devil, has arisen 
between king Charles and king Offa, so that, on both sides, 

* See this entire, Usserii Veterum Epistolarum Hibernicarum Sylloge, 
epist. 18. p. 36 ; and Alcuini Opera, torn. i. p. 6, epist. 3. 


all navigation is prohibited the merchants. Some say that 
we are to be sent into those parts to treat of peace." 

In these words, in addition to what I have remarked above, 
any curious person may determine how many years have 
elapsed since the Saracens invaded Africa and Asia Major. 
And indeed, had not the mercy of God animated the native 
spirit of the emperors of the Franks, the pagans had long 
since subjugated Europe also. For, holding the Constanti- 
nopolitan emperors in contempt, they possessed themselves of 
Sicily and Sardinia, the Balearic isles, and almost all the 
countries surrounded by the sea, with the exception of Crete, 
Rhodes, and Cyprus. In our time however they have been 
compelled to rehnquish Sicily by the Normans, Corsica and 
Sardinia by the Pisans, and great part of Asia and Jerusa- 
lem itself by the Franks and other nations of Europe. But, 
as I shall have a fitter place to treat largely of these matters 
hereafter, I shall now subjoin, from the words of Charles 
himself, the treaty which was ratified between him and Offa 
king of the Mercians. 

" Charles, by the grace of God king of the Franks and 
Lombards, and patrician of the Romans, to his esteemed and 
dearest brother Offa king of the Mercians, sendeth health : — 
First, we give thanks to God Almighty for the purity of the 
Catholic faith, which we find laudably expressed in your 
letters. Concerning pilgrims, who for the love of God or 
the salvation of their souls, wish to visit the residence of the 
holy apostles, let them go peaceably without any molestation ; 
but if persons, not seeking the cause of religion, but that of 
gain, be found amongst them, let them pay the customary 
tolls in proper places. We will, too, that traders have due 
protection within our kingdom, according to our mandate, 
and if in any place they suffer wrongful oppression, let them 
appeal to us or to our judges, and we will see full justice 
done. Let your kindness also be apprized that we have sent 
some token of our regard, out of our dalmatics* and palls, to 
each episcopal see of your kingdom or of Ethelred's, as an 

• The dalmatic was a garment worn by the clergy, and sometimes by 
princes. Its name is said to have been derived from its invention in Dal- 
matia. The pall here apparently signifies an upper vesture also, in form 
resembling a cloak without sleeves ; but it has a variety of meanings. See 
Du Cange, and note at p. 44, of Bede's Eccles. History. 


almsgiving, on account of our apostolical lord Adrian, earnestly 
begging that you would order him to be prayed for, not as 
doubting that his blessed soul is at rest, but to show our 
esteem and regard to our dearest friend. Moreover we have 
sent somewhat out of the treasure of those earthly riches, 
wliich the Lord Jesus hath granted to us of his unmerited 
bounty, for the metropolitan cities, and for yourself a belt, an 
Hungarian sword, and two silk cloaks." 

I have inserted these brief extracts from the epistle that 
posterity may be clearly acquainted with the friendship of 
Offa and Charles ; confiding in which friendly intercourse, 
although assailed by the hatred of numbers, he passed the 
rest of his life in uninterrupted quiet, and saw Egfert his 
son anointed to succeed him. This Egfert studiously avoided 
the cruel path trod by his father, and devoutly restored the 
privileges of all the churches which Offa had in his time 
abridged. The possessions also which his father had taken 
from Malmesbury he restored into the hands of Cuthbert, 
then abbat of that place, at the admonition of the aforesaid 
Athelard archbishop of Canterbury, a man of energy and a 
worthy servant of God, and who is uniformly asserted to 
have been its abbat before Cuthbert, from the circumstance 
of his choosing there to be buried. But while the hopes of 
Egfert^s noble qualities were ripening, in the first moments 
of his reign, untimely death cropped the flower of his youth- 
ful prime ; on which account Alcuin writing to the patrician 
Osbert, says, " I do not think that the most noble youth Eg- 
fert died for his own sins, but because his father, in the es- 
tablishment of his kingdom, shed a deluge of blood." Dying 
after a reign of four months, he appointed Kenulf, nephew 
of Penda in the fifth degree by his brother Kenwalk, to suc- 
ceed him. 

Kenulf was a truly great man, and surpassed his fame by 
his virtues, doing nothing that malice could justly find fault 
with. Religious at home, victorious abroad, his praises will 
be deservedly extolled so long as an impartial judge can be 
found in England. Equally to be admired for the extent of 
his power and for the lowliness of his mind ; of which he 
gave an eminent proof in restoring, as we have related, its 
faltering dignity to Canterbury, he little regarded earthly gran- 
deur in his own kingdom at the expense of deviating from 

A.D. 796—825.] KENELM — ^WITHLAF. 87 

anciently-enjoined canons. Taking up Offa's hatred against 
the Kentish people, he sorely afflicted that province, and led 
away captive their king Eadbert, surnamed Pren ; but not 
long after, moved with sentiments of pity, he released him. 
For at Winchelcombe, where he had built a church to God, 
which yet remains, on the day of its dedication he freed the 
captive king at the altar, and consoled him with liberty ; 
thereby giving a memorable instance of his clemency. 
Cuthred,* whom he had made king over the Kentish people, 
was present to applaud this act of royal munificence. The 
church resounded with acclamations, the street shook with 
crowds of people, for in an assembly of thirteen bishops and 
ten dukes, no one was refused a largess, all departed with 
full purses. Moreover, in addition to those presents of in- 
estimable price and number in utensils, clothes, and select 
horses, which the chief nobility received, he gave to all who 
did not possess landed property f a pound of silver, to each 
presbyter a marca of gold, to every monk a shilling, and 
lastly he made many presents to the people at large. After 
he had endowed the monastery with such ample revenues as 
would seem incredible in the present time, he honoured it by 
his sepulture, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign. His 
son Kenelm, of tender age, and undeservedly murdered by 
his sister Quendrida, gained the title and distinction of mar- 
tyrdom, and rests in the same place. 

After him the kingdom of the Mercians sank from its 
prosperity, and becoming nearly lifeless, produced nothing 
worthy to be mentioned in history. However, that no one 
may accuse me of leaving the history imperfect, I shall glance 
over the names of the kings in succession. Ceolwulf, the 
brother of Kenulf, reigning one year was expelled in the 
second by Bernulf ; who in the third year of his reign being 
overcome and put to flight by Egbert, king of the West 
Saxons, was afterwards slain by the East Angles, because 
he had attempted to seize on East Anglia, as a kingdom sub- 
ject to the Mercians from the time of Offa. Ludecan, after 

• Kenulf made Cuthred king of Kent, a.d. 798. Eadbert had been 
dreadfully mutilated by having his eyes put out and his hands cut off. 
See chap. i. 

t " Qui agros non habebant." These words refer to an inferior class of 
geutry, as he mentions the people at large, " populus," afterwards. 


a reign of two years, was despatched hj these Angles, as he 
was preparing to avenge his predecessor : Withlaf, subjuga- 
ted in the commencement of his reign by the before-men- 
tioned Egbert, governed thirteen years, paying tribute to 
him and to his son, both for his person and his property : 
Berthwulf reigning thirteen years on the same conditions, 
was at last driven by the Danish pirates beyond the sea : 
Burhred marrying Ethelswith, the daughter of king Ethel- 
wulf, the son of Egbert, exonerated himself, by this affinity, 
from the payment of tribute and the depredations of the 
enemy, but after twenty-two years, driven by them from his 
country, he fled to Rome, and was there buried at the school 
of the Angles, in the church of St. Mary ; his wife, at that 
time continuing in this country, but afterwards following her 
husband, died at Pavia. The kingdom was next given by 
the Danes to one Celwulf, an attendant of Burhred's, who 
bound himself by oath that he would retain it only at their 
pleasure : after a few years it fell under the dominion of 
Alfred, the grandson of Egbert. Thus the sovereignty of 
the Mercians, which prematurely bloomed by the overween- 
ing ambition of an heathen, altogether withered away through 
the inactivity of a driveller king, in the year of our Lord's 
incarnation eight hundred and seventy -five. 


Of the kings of the East Angles, [a.d. 520—905.] 

As my narrative has hitherto treated of the history of the 
four more powerful kingdoms in as copious a manner, I trust, 
as the perusal of ancient writers has enabled me, I shall now, 
as last in point of order, run through the governments of the 
East Angles and East Saxons, as suggested in my preface. 
The kingdom of the East Angles arose anterior to the West 
Saxons, though posterior to the kingdom of Kent. The first * 
and also the greatest king of the East Angles was Redwald, 
tenth in descent from Woden as they affirm ; for all the 
southern provinces of the Angles and Saxons on this side of 

* Redwald was not the first king of East Anglia, but the first who be- 
came distinguished. In the year 571, UfFa assumed the title of king : he 
was succeeded by his son, Titil, in 578 who was followed by Redwald, hia 
son. See Bede, b. ii. c. 15, 

A.D. 61G— 703.] EORPWALD EDMUND. 89 

the river Humber, with their kings, were subject to bis autho- 
rity. This is the person whom I have formerly mentioned 
as having, out of regard for Edwin, killed Ethelfrid, king of 
the Northumbrians. Through the persuasion of Edwin too 
he was baptized : and after, at the instigation of his wife, 
abjured the faith. His son, Eorpwald, embraced pure Chris- 
tianity, and poured out his immaculate spirit to God, being 
barbarously murdered by the heathen Richbert. To him 
succeeded Sigebert, his brother by the mother's side, a wor- 
thy servant of the Lord, polished from all barbarism by his 
education among the Franks. For, being driven into banish- 
ment by Redwald, and for a long time associating with them, 
he had received the rites of Christianity, which, on his 
coming into power he graciously communicated to the whole 
of his kingdom, and also instituted schools of learning in 
different places. This ought highly to be extolled : as men 
heretofore uncivilized and irreligious, were enabled, by his 
means, to taste the sweets of literature. The promoter of 
his studies and the stimulator of his religion was Felix the 
bishop, a Burgundian by birth, who now lies buried at Ram- 
sey. Sigebert moreover renouncing the world and taking 
the monastic vow, left the throne to his relation, Ecgric, 
with whom, being attacked in intestine war by Penda, king 
of the Mercians, he met his death, at the moment when, 
superior to his misfortunes, and mindful of his religious pro- 
fession, he held only a wand in his hand. The successor of 
Ecgric was Anna, the son of Eni, the brother of Redwald, 
involved in similar destruction by the same furious Penda ; 
he was blessed -wdth a numerous and noble offspring, as the 
second book will declare in its proper place. To Anna suc- 
ceeded his brother Ethelhere, who was justly slain by Oswy 
king of the Northumbrians, together with Penda, because he 
was an auxiliary to him, and was actually supporting the 
very army which had destroyed his brother and liis kinsman. 
His brother Ethelwald, in due succession, left the kingdom 
to Adulf and Elwold, the sons of Ethelhere. Next came 
Bernred. After him Ethelred. His son was St. Ethelbert, 
whom Offa king of the Mercians killed through treachery, as 
has already been said, and will be repeated hereafter. After 
him, through the violence of the Mercians, few kings reigned 
in Eastern Anglia till the time of St. Edmund, and he was 

90 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. i. c. 6. 

despatched in the sixteenth year of his reign, by Hingwar, a 
heathen ; from which time the Angles ceased to command in 
their own country for fifty years. For the province was 
nine years without a king, owing to the continued devasta- 
tions of the pagans ; afterwards both in it and in East Sax- 
ony, Gothrun, a Danish king, reigned for twelve years, in 
the time of king Alfred. Gothrun had for successor a Dane 
also, by name Eohric, who, after he had reigned fourteen 
years, was taken off by the Angles, because he conducted 
himself with cruelty towards them. Still, however, liberty 
beamed not on this people, for the Danish earls continued to 
oppress them, or else to excite them against the kings of the 
West Saxons, till Edward, the son of Alfred, added both 
provinces to his own West Saxon empire, expelling the 
Danes and freeing the Angles. This event took place in the 
fiftieth year after the murder of St. Edmund, king and mar- 
tyr, and in the fifteenth * of his own reign. 


Of the kings of the East Saxons, [a. d. 520—823. 

Nearly co-eval with the kingdom of the East Angles, was 
that of the East Saxons ; wliich had many kings in succes- 
sion, though subject to others, and principally to those of the 
Mercians. First, then, Sleda,f the tenth from Woden, 
reigned over them ; whose son, Sabert, nephew of St. Ethel- 
bert, king of Kent, by his sister Ricula, embraced the faith 
of Christ at the preaching of St. Mellitus, first bishop of 
London ; for that city belongs to the East Saxons. On the 
death of Sabert, his sons, Sexred and Seward, drove Melli- 
tus into banishment, and soon after, being killed by the West 
Saxons, they paid the penalty of their persecution against 
Christ. Sigbert, surnamed the Small, the son of Seward, 
succeeding, left the kingdom to Sigebert, the son of Sigebald, 

* According to the Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 921, that is, the 21st of Ed- 
ward the Elder, and the fiftieth from the murder of king Edmund. Now 
following this statement, as Edward succeeded his father, Alfred a.d. 901, 
the expulsion of the Danes would be the twentieth of his reign. In Flo- 
rence of Worcester the union of the kingdoms under Edward the Elder is 
assigned to the year 918. — Hardy. 

+ Sleda was not the first, but their times are uncertain. See Florence 
of Worcester, who calls him the son of Esc wine, whom Henry of Hunting- 
don considers to have been the first king of Essex. 

A.D. 653—823.] OF THE KINGS OF KENT. 91 

who was the brother of Sabert. This Sigehert, at the ex- 
hortation of king Oswy, was baptized in Northumbria by 
bishop Finan, and brought back to his nation, by the ministry 
of bishop Cedd,* the faith which they had expelled together 
with Mellitus. After gloriously governing the kingdom, he 
left it in a manner still more glorious ; for he was murdered by 
his near relations, merely because, in conformity to the gos- 
pel-precept, he used kindly to spare his enemies, nor regard 
with harsh and angry countenance, if they were penitent, 
those who had offended him. His brother Suidelm, baptized 
by the same Cedd in East Anglia, succeeded. On his death, 
Sighere, the son of Sigbert the Small, and Sebbi, the son of 
Seward, held the sovereignty. Sebbi's associate dying, he 
himself voluntarily retired from the kingdom in his thirtieth 
year, becoming a monk, as Bede relates. His sons Sighard and 
Suefred reigned after him. On their decease Offa, the son 
Sighere, governed the kingdom for a short time ; a youth of 
engaging countenance and disposition, in the flower of his 
age, and highly beloved by his subjects. He, through the 
persuasion of Kyneswith, daughter of king Penda, whom he 
had anxiously sought in marriage, being taught to aspire 
after heavenly affections, went to Rome with Kenred king of 
the Mercians, and St. Edwin bishop of Worcester ; and 
there taking the vow, in due time entered the heavenly man- 
sions. To him succeeded Selred, son of Sigebert the Good, 
during thirty-eight years ; who being slain, Swithed assumed 
the sovereignty of the East Saxons ;f but in the same year 
that Egbert king of the West Saxons subdued Kent, being 
expelled by him, he vacated the kingdom ; though London, 
with the adjacent country, continued subject to the kings of 
the Mercians as long as they held their sovereignty. 

The kings of Kent, it is observed, had dominion peculi- 
arly in Kent, in which are two sees ; the archbishopric of 
Canterbury, and the bishopric of Rochester. 

• Brother to St. Chad, bishop of Lichfield. See Bede, b. iii. c. 22. 

t Here seems an oversight which may be supplied from Florence of 
Worcester. " Swithed succeeded Selred, and held the sovereignty some 
years ; after whom few native kings ruled in Essex, for in the same year 
that Egbert conquered Kent, they surrendered to his power." Selred died 
746 ; their submission took place 823. It would appear, however, from 
the authorities adduced by Mr. Turner, Hist, of Aiglo-Saxons, vol. i. p. 
318, that Selred was in fact king of East- Anglia. 


The kings of the West Saxons ruled in Wiltshire, Berk- 
hire, and Dorsetshire ; in which there is one bishop, whose 
see is now at Sarum or Salisbury ; formerly it was at Rams- 
bury, or at Sherborne : in Sussex, which for some little time 
possessed a king of its own ;* the episcopal see of this 
county was anciently in the island of Selsey, as Bede relates, 
where St. Wilfrid built a monastery ; the bishop now dwells 
at Chichester : in the (bounties of Southampton and Surrey ; 
which have a bishop, whose see is at Winchester : in the 
county of Somerset, which formerly had a bishop at Wells, 
but now at Bath : and in Domnonia, now called Devonshire, 
and Cornubia, now Cornwall ; at that time there were two 
bishoprics, one at Crediton, the other at St. German's ; now 
there is but one, and the see is at Exeter. 

The kings of the Mercians governed the counties of Glou- 
cester, Worcester, and Warwick ; in these is one bishop 
whose residence is at Worcester : in Cheshire, Derbyshire, 
and Staffordshire ; these have one bishop, who has part of 
Warwicksliire and Shropshire ; his residence is at the city 
of Legions, that is Chester or Coventry ; formerly it was at 
Liclifield : in Herefordshire ; and there is a bishop having 
half Shropshire and part of Warwickshire, and Gloucester- 
shire ; whose residence is at Hereford : in Oxfordshire, 
Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, half of 
Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Lincoln- 
shire ; which counties are under the jurisdiction of a bishop 
now resident at Lincoln, but formerly at Dorchester in the 
county of Oxford : in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, 
which belong to the diocese of York ; formerly they had 
their own bishop, whose seat was at Leicester. 

The kings of the East Angles had dominion over the 
county of Cambridge ; there is a bishop, whose seat is at 
Ely : and in Norfolk and Suffolk : whose see is at Norwich ; 
formerly at Elmham or Thetford. 

The kings of the East Saxons ruled in Essex, in Middle- 

* The kingdom of Sussex was founded by MUa, who arrived in Britain 
with three vessels, and accompanied by his three sons, a.d. 477. He seems 
to have attained a very high degree of power, and was succeeded by his 
son Cissa. — The affairs' of this kingdom are extremely obscure ; it appears 
to have been sometimes dependent on Kent and sometimes on Wessex 
until finally united to the latter by Egbert, a.d. 823. 


sex, and half of Hertfordshire ; where there anciently was, 
and still remains, the bishop of London. 

The kings of the Northumbrians governed all the country 
which is beyond the river Humber, even into Scotland ; and 
there were the archbishop of York, the bishops of Hexham, 
of Ripon, of Lindisfarne, and of Candida Casa [Whitherne] ; 
Hexham and Ripon are no more ; Lindisfarne is translated 
to Durham. 

Such were the divisions of the kingdom of England, 
although the kings, according to the vicissitude of the times, 
now one, and then the other, would exceed their boundaries 
through their courage, or lose them by their indolence ; but 
all these several kingdoms Egbert subjugated by his abilities, 
and consoKdated into one empire, reserving to each their own 
laws. Wherefore, since I have passed beyond his times, ful- 
filling my promise in a review of the different periods, I will 
here fix the limits of my first volume, that the various tracks 
of the different kingdoms may unite in the general path of 
the West Saxon Empire. 

BOOK 11. 

A LONG period has elapsed since, as well through the care of 
my parents as my own industry, I became familiar with 
books. This pleasure possessed me from my childhood : this 
source of delight has grown with my years. Indeed I was 
so instructed by my father, that, had I turned aside to other 
pursuits, I should have considered it as jeopardy to my soul 
and discredit to my character. Wherefore mindful of the 
adage "covet what is necessary," I constrained my early 
age to desire eagerly that which it was disgraceful not to 
possess. I gave, indeed, my attention to various branches of 
literature, but in different degrees. Logic, for instance, 
which gives arms to eloquence, I contented myself with 
barely hearing. Medicine, which ministers to the health of 
the body, I studied with somewhat more attention. But 
now, having scrupulously examined the several branches of 

94 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUET. [b. ii. c. 1. 

Ethics, I bow down to its majesty, because it spontaneously 
unveils itself to those who study it, and directs their minds 
to moral practice ; History more especially ; which, by an 
agreeable recapitulation of past events, excites its readers, by 
example, to frame their lives to the pursuit of good, or to 
aversion from evil. When, therefore, at my own expense, I 
had procured some historians of foreign nations, I proceeded, 
during my domestic leisure, to inquire if any thing con- 
cerning our own country could be found worthy of handing 
down to posterity. Hence it arose, that, not content with 
the writings of ancient times, I began, myself, to compose ; 
not indeed to display my learning, which is comparatively 
nothing, but to bring to light events lying concealed in the 
confused mass of antiquity. In consequence rejecting vague 
opinions, I have studiously sought for chronicles far and near, 
though I confess I have scarcely profited any thing by this 
industry. For perusing them all, I still remained poor in 
information ; though I ceased not my researches as long as I 
could find any thing to read. However, what I have clearly 
ascertained concerning the four kingdoms, I have inserted in 
my first book, in which I hope truth will find no cause to 
blush, though perhaps a degree of doubt may sometimes 
arise. I shall now trace the monarchy of the West Saxon 
kingdom, through the line of successive princes, down to the 
coming of the Normans : which if any person will conde- 
scend to regard with complacency, let him in brotherly love 
observe the following rule : " If before, he knew only these 
things, let him not be disgusted because I have inserted 
them ; if he shall know more, let him not be angry that I 
have not spoken of them ; " but rather let him communicate 
his knowledge to me, while I yet live, that at least, those 
events may appear in the margin of my history, which do 
not occur in the text. 


TJie history of king Egbert, [a.d. 800—839.] 
My former volume terminated where the four kingdoms of 
Britain were consolidated into one. Egbert, the founder of 
this sovereignty, grand-nephew of king Ina, by his brother 
Ingild, of high rank in his own nation, and liberally 

A.D. 800-828.] OF KING EGBERT. 95 

educated, had been conspicuous among the West Saxons 
from his childhood. His uninterrupted course of valour 
begat envy, and as it is almost naturally ordained that kings 
should regard with suspicion whomsoever they see growing 
up in expectation of the kingdom, Bertric, as before related, 
jealous of his rising character, was meditating how to 
destroy him. Egbert, apprised of this, escaped to Offa, king 
of the Mercians. While Offa concealed him with anxious 
care, the messengers of Bertric arrived, demanding the 
fugitive for punishment, and offering money for his sur- 
render. In addition to this they solicited his daughter in 
marriage for their king, in order that the nuptial tie might 
bind them in perpetual amity. In consequence Offa, who 
would not give way to hostile threats, yielded to flattering 
allurements, and Egbert, passing the sea, went into France ; 
a circumstance which I attribute to the counsels of God, that 
a man destined to rule so great a kingdom might learn the 
art of government from the Franks ; for this people has no 
competitor among all the Western nations in military skill 
or polished manners. This ill-treatment Egbert used as an 
incentive to " rub off the rust of indolence," to quicken the 
energy of his mind, and to adopt foreign customs, far 
differing from his native barbarism. On the death, therefore, 
of Bertric, being invited into Britain by frequent messages 
from his friends, he ascended the throne, and reahzed the 
fcMidest expectations of his country. He was crowned in the 
year of our Lord's incarnation 800, and in the thirty-fourth 
year of the reign of Charles the Great, of France, who 
survived this event twelve years. In the meantine Egbei-t, 
when he had acquired the regard of his subjects by his 
affability and kindness, first manifested his power against 
those Britons who inhabit that part of the island which is 
called Cornwall, and having subjugated them, he proceeded 
to make the Northern Britons,* who are separated from, the 
others by an arm of the sea, tributary to him. While the 
fame of these victories struck terror into the rest, Bernulf 
king of the Mercians, aiming at something great, and 
supposing it would redound to his glory if he could remove 
the terror of others by his own audacity, proclaimed war 

* The early adventures of Egbert are found only in Malmesbury. He 
does not observe the order in which these events happened. 

96 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ir. c. 1. 

against Egbert. Deeming it disgraceful to retreat, Egbert 
met liim with much spirit, and on then coming into action, 
Bernulf was defeated and fled. This battle took place at 
Hellendun, a.d. 824.* Elated with this success, the West 
Saxon king, extending his views, in the heat of victory, sent 
his son Ethelwulf, with Alstan, bishop of Sherborne, and a 
chosen band, into Kent, for the purpose of adding to the 
West Saxon dominions that province, which had either 
grown indolent through long repose, or was terrified by the 
fame of his valour. These commanders observed their 
instructions effectually, for they passed through every part 
of the country, and driving Baldred its king, with little 
difficulty, beyond the river Thames, they subjugated to his 
dominion, in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, Kent, 
Surrey, the South Saxons, and the East Saxons, who had 
formerly been under the jurisdiction of his predecessors. 
Not long after the East Angles, animated by the support of 
Egbert, killed by successive stratagems, Bernulf and 
Ludecan, kings of the Mercians. The cause of their 
destruction was, their perpetual incursions, with their usual 
insolence, on the territories of others. Withlaf their 
successor, first di'iven from his kingdom by Egbert, and 
afterwards admitted as a tributary prince, augmented the 
West Saxon sovereignty. In the same year the Northum- 
brians perceiving that themselves only remained and were a 
conspicuous object, and fearing lest he should pour out hi^ 
long-cherished anger on them, at last, though late, gave 
hostages, and yielded to his power. When he was thus 
possessed of all Britain, the rest of his life, a space of nine 
years, passed quietly on, except that, nearly in his latter days, 
a piratical band of Danes made a descent, and disturbed the 
peace of the kingdom. So changeable is the lot of human 
affairs, that he, who first singly governed all the Angles, 
could derive but little satisfaction from the obedience of his 
countrymen, for a foreign enemy was perpetually harassing 

* The printed text of the former editions places the battle of Hellendun, 
A.D. 806. Several MSS. have 826, one 825, and two only appear to adopt 
the correct year 824, as inserted above. These are — The Arundel MS. 
No. 35, Brit. Mus. and the MS. in Trinity Coll. Cam. R. 14. The place 
is variously conjectured : Wilton in Wiltshire ; Hillingdon in Middlesex ; 
and near Highworth in Wilts. 

A.D. 838— 851. OF KING ETHELAYULF. • 97 

him and his descendants. Against these invaders the forces 
of the Angles made a stand, but fortune no longer flattered 
the king with her customary favours, but deserted him in the 
contest : for, when, during the greater part of the day, he 
had almost secured the victory, he lost the battle as the sun 
declined ; however, by the favour of darkness, he escaped 
the disgrace of being conquered. In the next action, with a 
small force, he totally routed an immense multitude. At 
length, after a reign of thirty-seven years and seven months, 
he departed this life, and was buried at Winchester ; leaving 
an ample field of glory for his son, and declaring, that he 
must be happy, if he was careful not to destroy, by the 
indolence natural to his race, a kingdom that himself had 
consolidated with such consummate industry. 


Of king Etheliviilf. [a.d. 839—858.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 837,* Ethelwulf, whom 
some call Athulf, the son of Egbert, came to the throne, and 
reigned twenty years and five months. Mild by nature he 
infinitely preferred a life of tranquillity to dominion over 
many provinces ; and, finally, content with liis paternal 
kingdom, he bestowed all the rest, which his father had sub- 
jugated, on his son Ethelstan ; of whom it is not known 
when, or in what manner, he died. He assisted Burhred, 
king of the Mercians, with an army against the Britons, and 
highly exalted him by giving him his daughter in marriage. 
He frequently overcame the piratical Danes, who were tra- 
versing the whole island and infesting the coast with sudden 
descents, both personally and by his generals ; although, 
according to the chance of war, he himself experienced 
great and repeated calamities ; London and almost the whole 
of Kent being laid waste. Yet these disasters were ever 
checked by the alacrity of the king's advisers, who sufi*ered 
not the enemy to trespass with impunity, but fuUy avenged 
themselves on them by the efiect of their united counsels. 
For he possessed at that time, two most excellent prelates, 

* Malmesbury, in following the Saxon Chronicle, is two years earlier 
than the Northern Chronicles. 


S8 . WILLIAM OF MAiMESBURT. Is. u. c. 2. 

St. Smthun of Winchester, and Ealstan of Sherborne, who 
perceiving the king to be of heavy and sluggish disposition, 
perpetually stimulated him, by their admonitions, to the 
knowledge of governing. Swithun, disgusted with earthly, 
trained his master to heavenly pursuits ; Ealstan, knowing 
that the business of the kingdom ought not to be neglected, 
continually inspirited him against the Danes : himself fur- 
nishing the exchequer with money, as well as regulating the 
army. Any peruser of the Annals* will find many affairs 
of this kind, both entered on with courage, and terminated 
with success through his means. He held his bishopric 
fifty years ; happy in living for so long a space in the prac- 
tice of good works. I should readily commend him, had he 
not been swayed by worldly avarice, and usurped what be- 
longed to others, when by his intrigues he seized the monas- 
tery of Malmesbury for his own use. We feel the mischief 
of this shameful conduct even to the present day, although 
the monastery has bafiled all similar violence from the time 
of his death till now, when it has fallen again into like difii- 
culty.")" Thus the accursed passion of avarice corrupts the 
human soul, and forces men, though great and illustrious 
in other respects, into heU. 

Ethelwulf, confiding in these two supporters, provided 
effectually for external emergencies, and did not neglect the 
interior concerns of his kingdom. For after the subjugation 
of his enemies, turning to the establishment of God's wor- 
ship, he granted every tenth hide of land within his king- 
dom to the servants of Christ, free from all tribute, exempt 
from all services. But how small a portion is this of his 
glory ? Having settled his kingdom, he went to Rome, and 
there offered to St. P^ter that tribute which England pays to 
this day, I before pope Leo the fourth, who had also, formerly, 

» See Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 823—825. 

+ Roger, bishop of Salisbury, seized it in like manner to his own use, 
A.D. 1118, and held it till his death, 1159. 

t Alluding to the Rome-scot, or Peter's-pence, a penny from each 
house, paid on the festival of St. Peter. Its origin and application seem 
obscure : Higden interpolates Malmesbury, as assigning its first grant to 
Ina : Henry of Huntingdon says, Offa. This grant is supposed by Spel- 
man to have been made in a General Council of the nation. A similar 
payment appears to have been made by other nations. It is to be observed 
that Asser mentions only Ethelwulf 's donation of three hundred mancusea. 


honourably received, and anointed as king, Alfred,* his son, 
whom Ethelwulf had sent to him. Continuing there a whole 
year, he nobly repaired the School of the Angles, which, 
according to report, was first founded by Offa, king of the 
Mercians, and had been burned down the preceding year.f 
Returning home through France, he married J.udith, daugh- 
ter of Charles, king of the Franks. 


For Louis the Pious, son of Charles the Great, had four 
sons ; Lothaire, Pepin, Louis, and Charles, surnamed the 
Bald ; of these Lothaire, even in liis father's life-time, 
usurping the title of emperor, reigned fifteen years in that 
part of Germany situated near the Alps which is now called 
Lorraine, that is, the kingdom of Lothaire, and in all Italy 
together with Rome. In his latter days, afflicted Tvdth sick- 
ness, he renounced the world. He was a man by far more 
inhuman than all who preceded him ; so much so, as even 
frequently to load his own father with chains in a dungeon. 
Louis indeed was of mild and simple manners, but he was 
unmercifully persecuted by Lothaire, because Ermengarda, 
by whom he had his first family, being dead, he was doat- 
ingly fond of Charles, his son by his second wife Judith. 

* Asser relates that pope Leo stood sponsor for, and confirmed Alfred, 
who had been sent to Rome by his father the preceding year. 

+ The conflagration here named seems that mentioned by Anastasius, 
who tells us, that, shortly after the accession of Pope Leo the fourth, a 
fire broke out in the Saxon street, but the pope, making the sign of the 
cross with his fingers, put a stop to it. (Anastas. Biblioth. p. 319.) From 
this author's account it appears to have been a street or quarter of con- 
siderable extent, and near to St. Peter's. There were schools of this kind 
belonging to various nations at Rome. Matt. Westminster says it was 
foimded by Ina, with the consent and approbation of Pope Gregory, that 
priests, nobles, prelates, or kings, of the English nation, might be enter- 
tained there during their stay for the purpose of being thoroughly instructed 
in the Catholic faith ; for that, from the time of Augustine, the doctrine and 
schools of the English had been interdicted by the popes on account of the 
various heresies which had sprung up among them ; that, moreover, Ina be- 
stowed a penny from each house, or Rome-scot, for the support of these 
persons. (Matt. West, a.d, 727.) It was destroyed by fire in the year 
816, and partially again a.d. 854. Our text, therefore, is at variance with 
the account given by Anastasius, and the latter is probably incorrect. 


100 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 2. 

Pepin, another son of Louis, had dominion in Aquitaine* 
and Gascony. Louis, the tliird son of Louis, in addition 
to Norica, which ne had already, possessed the kingdoms 
which liis father had given him, that is to say, Alemannia, 
Thuringia, Austrasia, Saxony, and the kingdom of the 
Avares, that is, the Huns. Charles obtained the half oi 
France on the west, and all Neustria, Brittany, and the 
greatest part of Burgundy, Gothia, Gascony, and Aquitaine, 
Pepin the son of Pepin being ejected thence and compelled 
to become a monk in the monastery of St. Methard ; who 
afterwards escaping by flight, and returning into Aquitaine, 
remained there in concealment a long time ; but being again 
treacherously deceived by Ranulph the governor, he was 
seized, brought to Charles at Senlis, and doomed to perpetual 
exile. Moreover, after the death of the most pious emperor, 
Louis, Lothaire, who had been anointed emperor eighteen 
years before his father's decease, being joined by Pepin with 
the people of Aquitaine, led an army against his brothers, 
that is, Louis, the most pious king of the Bavarians, and 
Charles, into the county of Auxerre to a place called Fonte- 
nai :f where, when the Franks with all their subject nations 
had been overwhelmed by mutual slaughter, Louis and 
Charles ultimately triumphed ; Lothaire being put to flight. 
After this most sanguinary conflict, however, peace was 
made between them, and they divided the sovereignty of the 
Franks, as has been mentioned above. Lothaire had three 
sons by Ermengarda the daughter of Hugo : first, Louis, to 
whom he committed the government of the Romans and of 
Italy ; next, Lothaire, to whom he left the imperial crown ; 
lastly, Charles, to whom he gave Provence. Lothaire died 
in the year of our Lord's incarnation 855, of his reign the 

* The divisions of France were liable to considerable variation : but it 
may be sufficient to observe, that Aquitaine lay between the Garonne and 
Loire ; Vasconia, from the Garonne to the Pyrenees ; Gothia, from the 
Pyrenees along the coast to the eastward ; Austrasia or East France, be- 
sides various tracts beyond the Rhine, lay between that river and the 
Meuse ; Neustria or West France, from the Channel to the Loire with 
the exception of Brittany. 

t The battle of Fontenai is considered as the most calamitous in the 
French annals ; more than one hundred thousand men having, it is said, 
perished in it. It was fought on the 25th of June, a.d. ^^1, a memorable 
month in the annals of Fiance. 


thirty-third. Charles his son, who governed Provence, sur- 
vived him eight years, and then Louis, emperor of the Ro- 
mans, and Lothaire his brother, shared his kingdom of 
Provence. But Louis king of the Norici, that is, of the 
Bavarians, the son of Louis the emperor, in the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 865, after the feast of Easter, divided his 
kingdom between his sons. To Caroloman he gave Norica, 
that is, Bavaria, and the marches bordering on the Sclavo- 
nians and the Lombards ; to Louis, Thuringia, the Eastern 
Franks, and Saxony; to Charles he left Alemannia, and 
Curnw alia, that is, the county of Cornwall.* Louis him- 
self reigned happily over his sons, in full power for ten 
years, and then died in the year of our Lord's incarnation 
876, when he had reigned fifty-four years. Charles king of 
the West Franks, in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, enter- 
ing Italy, came to offer up his prayers in the church of the 
apostles, and was there elected emperor by all the Roman 
people, and consecrated by pope John on the 2oth of Decem- 
ber, in the year of our Lord's incarnation 875. Thence he 
had a prosperous return into Gaul. But in the thirty-eighth 
year of his reign, and the beginning of the third of his im- 
perial dignity, he went into Italy again, and held a conference 
with pope John ; and returning into Gaul, he died, after 
passing Mount Cenis, on the 13th of October, in the tenth 
of the Indiction, in the year of our Lord 877, and was suc- 
ceeded by his son Louis. Before the second year of his 
reign was completed this Louis died in the palace at Com- 
peigne, on the sixth before the Ides of April, in the year of 
our Lord 879, the twelfth of the Indiction. After him his 
sons, Louis and Caroloman, divided his kingdom. Of these, 
Louis gained a victory over the Normans in the district of 
Vimeu, and died soon after on the 12th of August, in the 
year of our Lord 881, the fifteenth of the Indiction, having 
reigned two years, three months, and twenty-four days. He 
was succeeded in his government by his brother Caroloman, 
who, after reigning three years and six days, was wounded 
by a wild boarf in the forest of Iveline, in Mount Ericus. 

* Comu-guallia, i.e. the Horn of Gaul from the projection of Brit- 

f Some pretend that he was accidentally wounded by Bertholde, one of 
his attendants ; and that the story of the boar was invented in order to 

102 WILLIAM OF MALMESBTTRY. [b. it. c. t. 

He departed this life in the year of our Lord 884, the second 
of the Indiction, the 24th of December. Next Charles king 
of the Suavi, the son of Louis king of the Norici, assumed 
the joint empire of the Franks and Romans, in the year of 
the Incarnate Word 885, the third of the Indiction ; whose 
vision, as I think it worth preserving, I here subjoin : 

" In the name of G-od most high, the King of kings. As 
I, Charles by the free gift of God, emperor, king of the Ger- 
mans, patrician of the Romans, and emperor of the Franks, 
on the sacred night of the Lord's day, after duly performing 
the holy service of the evening, went to the bed of rest and 
sought the sleep of quietude, there came a tremendous voice 
to me, saying, ' Charles, thy spirit shall shortly depart from 
thee for a considerable time :' immediately I was rapt in the 
spirit, and he who carried me away in the spirit was most 
glorious to behold. In his hand he held a clue of thread 
emitting a beam of purest light, such as comets shed when 
they appear. This he began to unwind, and said to me, ' Take 
the thread of this brilliant clue and bind and tie it firmly on 
the thumb of thy right hand, for thou shalt be led by it 
through the inextricable punishments of the infernal regions.' 
Saying this, he went before me, quickly unrolling the thread 
of the brilliant clue, and led me into very deep and fiery 
valleys which were full of pits boiling with pitch, and brim- 
stone, and lead, and wax, and grease. There I found the 
bishops of my father and of my uncles : and when in terror 
I asked them why they were suffering such dreadful tor- 
ments ? they replied, ' We were the bishops of your father 
and of your uncles, and instead of preaching, and admonish- 
ing them and their people to peace and concord, as was our 
duty, we were the sowers of discord and the fomenters of 
evil. On this account we are now burning in these infernal 
torments, together with other lovers of slaughter and of 
rapine ; and hither also will your bishops and ministers come, 
who now delight to act as we did.' While I was fearfully 
listening to this, behold the blackest demons came flying 
about me, with fiery claws endeavouring to snatch away the 
thread of life which I held in my hand, and to draw it to 
them ; but repelled by the rays of the clue, they were unable 

screen him from punishment. Malmesbury, however, follows Asser, the 
Saxon Chron., &c. 

A,D. 885.] Charles's vision, 103 

to touch it. Next running behind me, they tried to gripe 
me in their claws and cast me headlong into those sulphu- 
reous pits : but my conductor, who carried the clue, threw a 
thread of light over my shoulders, and doubling it, drew me 
strongly after him, and in this manner we ascended lofty 
fiery mountains, from which arose lakes, and burning rivers, 
and all kinds of burning metals, wherein I found immersed 
innumerable souls of the vassals and princes of my father 
and brothers, some up to the hair, others to the chin, and 
others to the middle, who mournfully cried out to me, ' While 
we were living, we were, together with you, and your father, 
and brothers, and uncles, fond of battle, and slaughter, and 
plunder, through lust of earthly things : wherefore we now 
undergo punishment in these boiling rivers, and in various 
kinds of liquid metal.' While I was, with the greatest 
alarm, attending to these, I heard some souls behind me cry- 
ing out, ' The great will undergo still greater torment.' 1 
looked back and beheld on the banks of the boiling river, 
furnaces of pitch and brimstone, filled with great dragons, 
and scorpions, and diiFerent kinds of serpents, where I also 
saw some of my father's nobles, some of my own, and of 
those of my brothers and of my uncles, who said, ' Alas, 
Charles, you see what dreadful torments we undergo on 
account of our malice, and pride, and the evil counsel which 
we gave to our kings and to you, for lust's sake.' When I 
could not help groaning mournfully at this, the dragons ran 
at me with open jaws filled with fire, and brimstone, and 
pitch, and tried to swallow me up. My conductor then 
tripled the thread of the clue around me, which by the 
splendour of its rays overcame their fiery throats : he then 
pulled me with greater violence, and we descended into a 
valley, which was in one part dark and burning like a fiery 
furnace, but in another so extremely enchanting and glorious, 
that I cannot describe it. I turned myself to the dark part 
which emitted flames, and there I saw some kings of my race 
in extreme torture ; at which, affrighted beyond measure and 
reduced to great distress, I expected that I should be imme. 
diately thrown into these torments by some very black giants, 
who made the valley blaze with every kind of flame. I trem- 
bled very much, and, the thread of the clue of light assisting 
my eyes, I saw, on the side of the valley, the light somewhat 

104 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii- c. 2. 

brightening, and two fountains flowing out thence : one was 
extremely hot ; the other clear and luke-warm ; two large 
casks were there besides. When, guided by the thread of 
light, I proceeded thither, I looked into the vessel containing 
boiling water, and saw my father Louis, standing therein up to 
his thighs. He was dreadfully oppressed with pain and agony, 
and said to me, ' Fear not, my lord Charles ; I know that your 
spirit will again return into your body, and that God hath 
permitted you to come hither, that you might see for what 
crimes myself and all whom you have beheld, undergo these 
torments. One day I am bathed in the boiling cask ; next I 
pass into that other delightful water ; which is effected by 
the prayers of St. Peter and St. Remigius, under whose pa- 
tronage our royal race has hitherto reigned. But if you, and 
my faithful bishops and abbats, and the whole ecclesiastical 
order will quickly assist me with masses, prayers and psalms, 
and alms, and vigils, I shall shortly be released from the 
punishment of the boiling water. For my brother Lothaire 
and his son Louis have had these punishments remitted by 
the prayers of St. Peter and St. Remigius, and have now 
entered into the joy of God's paradise.' He then said to me, 
' Look on your left hand ;' and when I had done so, I saw 
two very deep casks boiling furiously. * These,' said he, 
' are prepared for you, if you do not amend and repent of 
your atrocious crimes.' I then began to be dreadfully afraid, 
and when my conductor saw my spirit thus terrified, he said 
to me, 'Follow me to the right of that most resplendent 
valley of paradise.' As we proceeded, I beheld my uncle 
Lothaire sitting in excessive brightness, in company with 
glorious kings, on a topaz-stone of uncommon size, crowned 
with a precious diadem : and near him, his son Louis crowned 
in like manner. Seeing me near at hand he called me to 
him in a kind voice, saying, ' Come to me, Charles, now my 
third successor in the empire of the Romans ; I know that 
you have passed through the place of punishment where your 
father, my brother, is placed in the baths appointed for liim ; 
but, by the mercy of God, he will be shortly liberated from 
those punishments as we have been, by the merits of St. 
Peter and the prayers of St. Remigius, to whom God hath 
given a special charge over the kings and people of the 
Franks, and unless he shall continue to favour and assist the 

A.D. 885.] Charles's \tesion. 105 

dregs of our family, our race must shortly cease both from 
the kingdom and the empire. Know, moreover, tliat the rule 
of the empire will be shortly taken out of your hand, nor 
will you long survive. Then Louis turning to me, said, ' The 
empire which you have hitherto held by hereditary right, 
Louis the son of my daughter is to assume.' So saying, 
there seemed immediately to appear before me a little child, 
and Lothaire his grandfather looking upon him, said to me, 
' This infant seems to be such an one as that which the Lord 
set in the midst of the disciples, and said, " Of such is the 
kingdom of God, I say unto you, that their angels do always 
behold the face of my father who is in heaven." But do you 
bestow on him the empire by that thread of the clue which 
you hold in your hand.' I then untied the thread from the 
thumb of my right hand, and gave him the whole monarchy 
of the empire by that thread, and immediately the entire 
clue, like a brilliant sun-beam, became rolled up in his hand. 
Thus, after this wonderful transaction, my spirit, extremely 
wearied and affrighted, returned into my body. Therefore, 
let all persons know willingly or unwillingly, forasmuch as, 
according to the will of God, the whole empire of the Romans 
will revert into his hands, and that I cannot prevail against 
him, compelled by the conditions of this my calling, that God, 
who is the ruler of the living and the dead, will both com- 
plete and establish this ; whose eternal kingdom remains for 
ever and ever, amen." 

The vision itself, and the partition of the kingdoms, I have 
inserted in the very words I found them in.* This Charles, 
then, had scarcely discharged the united duties of the empire 
and kingdom for two years, when Charles, the son of Louis 
who died at Compeigne, succeeded liim : this is the Charles 
who married the daughter of Edward, king of England, and 
gave Normandy to Rollo with his daughter Gisla, who was 
the surety of peace and pledge of the treaty. To this 
Charles, in the empire, succeeded Arnulph ; a king of the 
imperial line, tutor of that young Louis of whom the vision 
above recited speaks. Arnulph dying after fifteen years, this 
Louis succeeded him, at whose death, one Conrad, king of the 

* This vision is copied from Hariulfe's Chronicle, lib. iii, cap. 21. The 
Annals ascribed to Asser also recite the vision, sub anno 886. — See Mr. 
Hardy's Note, vol. i. p. 160. 

106 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. [b. ii. c. 2. 

Teutonians, obtained the sovereignty. His son Henry, who 
succeeded him, sent to Athelstan king of the Angles, for his 
two sisters, AJdgitha and Edgitha, the latter of whom he 
married to his son Otho, the former to a certain duke near 
the Alps. Thus the empire of the Romans and the kingdom 
of the Franks being severed from their ancient union, the 
one is governed by emperors and the other by kings. But 
as I have wandered wide from my purpose, whilst indulging 
in tracing the descent of the illustrious kings of the Franks, 
I will now return to the course I had begun, and to Ethel- 

On his return after his year's peregrination and marriage 
with the daughter of Charles the Bald, as I have said, he 
found the dispositions of some persons contrary to his ex- 
pectations. For Ethelbald liis son, and Ealstan bishop of 
Sherborne, and Enulph earl of Somerset conspiring against 
him, endeavoured to eject him from the sovereignty; but 
through the intervention of maturer counsel, the kingdom 
was divided between the father and his son. This partition 
was extremely unequal ; for malignity was so far successful 
that the western portion, whicli was the better, was allotted 
to the son, the eastern, which was the worse, fell to the 
father. He, however, with incredible forbearance, dreading 
"a worse than civil war," calmly gave way to his son, re- 
straining, by a conciliatory harangue, the people who had 
assembled for the purpose of asserting his dignity. And 
though all this quarrel arose on account of his foreign wife, 
yet he held her in the highest estimation, and used to place 
her on the throne near himself, contrary to the West Saxon 
custom. For that people never suffered the king's consort 
either to be seated by the king or to be honoured with the 
appellation of queen, on account of the depravity of Ead- 
burga, daughter of Offa, king of the Mercians ; who, as we 
have before mentioned, being married to Bertric, king of the 
West Saxons, used to persuade him, a tender-hearted man, 
as they report, to the destruction of the innocent, and would 
herself take off by poison those against whom her accusa- 
tions failed. This was exemplified in the case of a youth 
much beloved by the king, whom she made away with in 
this manner : and immediately afterwards Bertric fell sick, 
wasted away and died, from having previously drunk of the 


same potion, unknown to tlie queen. The rumour of tliis 
getting abroad, drove the poisoner from the kingdom. Pro- 
ceeding to Charles the Great, she happened to find him 
standing with one of his sons, and after offering him pre- 
sents, the emperor, in a playful, jocose manner, conomanded 
her to choose which she liked best, himself, or his son. 
Eadburga choosing the young man for his blooming beauty, 
Charles replied with some emotion, "Had you chosen me, 
you should have had my son, but since you have chosen him, 
you shall have neither." He then placed her in a monastery 
where she might pass her life in splendour ; but, soon after, 
finding her guilty of incontinence he expelled her.* Struck 
with this instance of depravity, the Saxons framed the regu- 
lation I have alluded to, though Ethelwulf invalidated it by 
his affectionate kindness. He made his will a few months 
before he died, in wliich, after the division of the kingdom 
between his sons Ethelbald and Ethelbert, he set out the 
dowry of his daughter, and ordered, that, till the end of 
time, one poor person should be clothed and fed from every 
tenth hide of his inheritance, and that every year, three 
hundred mancas of goldf should be sent to Kome, of which 
one -third should be given to St. Peter, another to St. Paul 
for lamps, and the other to the pope for distribution. He 
died two years after he came from Rome, and was buried at 
Winchester in the cathedral. But that I may return from 
my digression to my proposed series, I shall here subjoin the 
charter of ecclesiastical immunities which he granted to all 

" Our Lord Jesus Christ reigning for evermore. Since 
we perceive that perilous times are pressing on us, that 
there are in our days hostile burnings, and plunderings 
of our wealth, and most cruel depredations by devastating 
enemies, and many tribulations of barbarous and pagan na- 
tions, threatening even our destruction: therefore I Ethel- 
wulf king of the West Saxons, with the advice of my 
bishops and nobility, have established a wholesome counsel 

* Asser had conversed with many persons who afterwards saw her beg- 
ging for a subsistence in Pavia, where she died. 

+ One hundred were for the pope, and the other two hundred to be 
divided between the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul, to provide lights 
on Easter-eve. 

108 WILLIAM OF MALMKSHURY. [b. ir. c. 2. 

and general remedj. I have decided that there shall be 
given to the servants of God, whether male or female or lay- 
men,* a certain hereditary portion of the lands possessed by 
persons of every degree, that is to say, the tenth manse,| 
but where it is less than this, then the tenth part; that it 
may be exonerated from all secular services, all royal tri- 
butes great and small, or those taxes which we call Witere- 
den. And let it be free from all things, for the release of 
our souls, that it may be applied to God's service alone, 
exempt from expeditions, the building of bridges, or of forts ; 
in order that they may more diligently pour forth their 
prayers to God for us without ceasing, inasmuch as we have 
in some measure alleviated their service. Moreover it hath 
pleased Ealstan bishop of Sherborne, and Swithun bishop 
of Winchester, with their abbats and the servants of God, 
to appoint that all our brethren and sisters at each church, 
every week on the day of Mercury, that is to say, Wednes- 
day, should sing fifty psalms, and every priest two masses, 
one for king Ethelwulf, and another for his nobility, con- 
senting to this gift, for the pardon and alleviation of their 
sins; for the king while living, they shall say, 'Let us 
pray: O God, who justifiest.' For the nobility while living, 
' Stretch forth, O Lord.' After they are dead ; for the de- ' 
parted king, singly: for the departed nobility, in common: 
and let this be firmly appointed for all the times of Chris- 
tianity, in like manner as that immunity is appointed, so 
long as faith shall increase in the nation of the Angles 
This charter of donation was written in the year of our 
Lord's incarnation 844,J the fourth of the indiction, and on 
the nones, i. e. the fifth day of November, in the city of 
Winchester, in the church of St. Peter, before the high 
altar, and they have done this for the honour of St. Michael 

* Ingulf, who likewise gives this charter, reads, "laicis miseris," the 
poor laity. 

+ Manse implies generally a dwelling and a certain quantity of land an- 
nexed : sometimes it is synonymous with a hide, or plough-land. 

J Ingulf has a.d. 855 : 3 indict, which agrees with Asser, who assigns 
that year for the grant. It appears to be the charter which Malmesbury 
before referred to on the king's going to Rome, and has given rise to much 
controversy; some holding that it conveyed the tithes of the land only, 
while others maintain that it was an actual transfer of the tenth part of all 
lands in the kingdom. See Carte, vol. i. 293. Both opinions are attended 


the archangel, and of St. Marj the glorious queen, the 
mother of God, and also for the honour of St. Peter the 
chief of the apostles, and of our most holy father pope 
Gregory, and all saints. And then, for greater security, 
king Ethelwulf placed the charter on the altar of St. Peter, 
and the bishops received it in behalf of God's holy faith, 
and afterwards transmitted it to all churches in their dio- 
ceses according to the above-cited form." 

From this king the English chronicles trace the line of the 
generation of their kings upwards, even to Adam, as we 
know Luke the evangelist has done with respect to our Lord 
Jesus ; and which, perhaps, it will not be superfluous for me 
to do, though it is to be apprehended, that the utterance of 
barbarous names m.ay shock the ears of persons unused to 
them. Ethelwulf was the son of Egbert, Egbert of Elmund, 
Elmund of Eafa, Eafa of Eoppa, Eoppa was the son of Ligild, 
the brother of king Ina, who were both sons of Kenred ; 
Kenred of Ceolwald, Ceolwald of Cutha, Cutha of Cuthwin, 
Cuthwin of Ceawlin, Ceawlin of Cynric, Cynric of Creoding, 
Creoding of Cerdic, who was the first king of the AVest 
Saxons ; Cerdic of Elesa, Elesa of Esla, Esla of Gewis, 
Gewis of Wig, Wig of Freawin, Freawin of Frithogar, 
Frithogar of Brond, Brond of Beldeg, Beldeg of Woden ; 
and from him, as we have often remarked, proceeded the 
kings of many nations. Woden was the son of Frithowald, 
Frithowald of Frealaf, Frealaf of Finn, Finn of Godwulf, 
Godwulf of Geat, Geat of Tastwa, Taetwa of Beaw, Beaw of 
Sceldi, Sceldi of Sceaf ; who, as some affirm, was driven on 
a certain island in Germany, called Scamphta, (of which 
Jornandes, * the historian of the Goths, speaks,) a little boy 
in a skiff, without any attendant, asleep, with a handful of 
corn at his head, whence he was called Sceaf; and, on 
account of his singular appearance, being well received by 

with considerable difficulties. Mr. Carte very inadvertently imagines this 
charter and the copy in Ingulf to be distinct erant? : the latter being, he 
says, a confirmation and extension of the former, after Ethelwulf 's return 
from Rome: but the false date in Malmesbury is of no importance, some 
MSS. having even 814, and 855 was the year of his departure, not of his 

* Jordanes, or Jornandes, was secretary to the kings of the Goths in 
Italy. He was afterwards bishop of Ravenna, and wrote, De Rebvs 
Gothicis ; and also, De Regnorum et Temporum Successione— Hardy. 


the men of that country, and carefully educated, in his riper 
age he reigned in a town which was called Slaswic, but at 
present Haitheby ; which country, called old Anglia, whence 
the Angles came into Britain, is situated between the Saxons 
and the Gioths. Sceaf was the son of Heremod, Heremod 
of Itermon, Itermon of Hathra, Hathra of Guala, Guala of 
Bedwig, Bedwig of Streaf, and he, as they say, was the son 
of Noah, born in the Ark. * 


Of Ethelbald, Ethelbert, and Ethelred, sons of Etheltvulf, 
[a.d. 858—872.] 

In the year of our Lord 857, f the two sons of Ethelwulf 
divided their paternal kingdom ; Ethelbald reigned in West 
Saxony, and Ethelbert in Kent. Ethelbald, base and per- 
fidious, defiled the bed of his father by marrying, after his 
decease, Judith his step-mother. Dying, however, at the 
end of five years, and being interred at Sherborne, the whole 
government devolved upon his brother. In his time a band 
of pirates landing at Southampton, proceeded to plunder the 
populous city of Winchester, but soon after being spiritedly 
repulsed by the king's generals, and suffering considerable 
loss, they put to sea, and coasting round, chose the Isle of 
Thanet, in Kent, for their winter quarters. The people of 
Kent, giving hostages, and promising a sum of money, would 
have remained quiet, had not these pirates, breaking the 
treaty, laid waste the whole district by nightly predatory 
excursions, but roused by this conduct they mustered a force 
and drove out the truce-breakers. Moreover Ethelbert, 
having ruled the kingdom with vigour and with mildness, 

* A similar list of the genealogy of the West Saxon kings, will be 
found in the Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 855. 

+ Malmesbury's Chronology to the accession of Edward the Elder, is a 
year later than the Saxon Chronicle, Asser, and Florence of Worcester. 
His computation rests on fixing the death of Ethelwulf in 857, who went 
to Rome in 855, stayed there a year, and died in the second year after his 
return. Allowing ten years for Ethelbald and Ethelbert, it brings the 
accession of Ethelred to 867, and five years added tb this give 872 fur 
Alfred's accession. After the death of Ethelbald Judith returned to 
France. She left no children ; but marrying afterwards Baltlwin, count <.f 
Flanders, she bore him Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror. 


paid the debt of nature after five years, and was buried at 

In the year of our Lord 867, Ethelred, the son of Ethel- 
wulf, obtained his paternal kingdom, and ruled it for the 
same number of years as his brothers. Surely it would be a 
pitiable and grievous destiny, that all of them should perish 
by an early death, unless it is, that in such a tempest of 
evils, these royal youths should prefer an honourable end to 
a painful government. Indeed, so bravely and so vigorously 
did they contend for their country, that it was not to be im- 
puted to them that their valour did not succeed in its design. 
Finally, it is related, that this king was personally engaged 
in hostile conflict against the enemy nine times in one year, 
with various success indeed, but for the most part victor, 
besides sudden attacks, in which, from his skill in warfare, 
he frequently worsted those straggling depredators. In these 
several actions the Danes lost nine earls and one king, be- 
sides common people innumerable. 

One battle memorable beyond all the rest was that which 
took place at Eschendun.* The Danes, having collected an 
army at this place, divided it into two bodies ; their two 
kings commanded the one, all their earls the other. Ethebed 
drew near with his brother Alfred. It fell to the lot of 
Ethelred to oppose the kings, while Alfred was to attack the 
earls. Both armies eagerly prepared for battle, but night 
approaching deferred the conflict till the ensuing- day. 
Scarcely had the morning dawned ere Alfred was ready at 
his post, but his brother, intent on his devotions, had re- 
mained in his tent ; and when urged on by a message, that 
the pagans were rushing forward with unbounded fury, he 
declared that he should not move a step till his religious ser- 
vices were ended. This piety of the king was of infinite 
advantage to his brother, who was too impetuous from the 
thoughtlessness of youth, and had already far advanced. 
The battalions of the Angles were now giving way, and 
even bordering on flight, in consequence of their adversaries 
pressing upon them from the higher ground, for the Chris- 
tians were fighting in an unfavourable situation, when the 

* Supposed Aston, near Wallingford, Berks. Others think Ashendon -i 
Bucks. The Latin and Saxon names, Mons Fraxini, and £schen-duu, 
seem to favour the latter. 

112 WILLIA3I OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii c. 3. 

king himself, signed with the cross of God, unexpectedly- 
hastened forward, dispersing the enemy, and rallying his 
subjects. The Danes, terrified equally by his courage and 
the divine manifestation, consulted their safety by flight. 
Here fell Oseg their king, five earls, and an innumerable 
multitude of common people. 

The reader will be careful to observe that during this 
time, the kings of the Mercians and of the Northumbrians, 
eagerly seizing the opportunity of the arrival of the Danes, 
with whom Ethelred was fully occupied in fighting, and 
somewhat relieved from their bondage to the West Saxons, 
had nearly regained their original power. All the provinces, 
therefore, were laid waste by cruel depredations, because 
each king chose rather to resist the enemy within his own 
territories, than to assist liis neighbours in their difficulties ; 
and thus preferring to avenge injury rather than to prevent 
it, they ruined their country by their senseless conduct. The 
Danes acquired strength without impediment, whilst the 
apprehensions of the inhabitants increased, and each suc- 
cessive victory, from the addition of captives, became the 
means of obtaining another. The country of the East 
Angles, together with their cities and villages, was possessed 
by these plunderers ; its king, St. Edmund, slain by them in 
the year of our Lord's incarnation 870, on the tenth of 
November, purchased an eternal kingdom by putting off" this 
mortal life. The Mercians, often harassed, alleviated their 
afflictions by giving hostages. The Northumbrians, long 
embroiled in civil dissensions, made up their diff*erences on 
the approach of the enemy. Replacing Osbert their king, 
whom they had expelled, upon the throne, and collecting a 
powerful force, they went out to meet the foe ; but being 
easily repelled, they shut themselves up in the city of York, 
which was presently after set on fire by the victors ; and 
w^hen the flames were raging to the utmost and consuming 
the very walls, they perished for their country in the 
conflagration. In this manner Northumbria, the prize of 
war, for a considerable time after, felt the more bitterly, 
through a sense of former liberty, the galling yoke of the 
barbarians. And now Ethelred, worn down with numberless 
labours, died and was buried at Wimborne. 

AD. 872— 878.] Alfred's DREAM. 113 


Of king Alfred, [a.d. 872—901.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 872, Alfred, the 
youngest son of Ethelwulf, who had, as has been related 
before, received the royal unction and crown from pope Leo 
the fourth at Rome, acceded to the sovereignty and retained 
it with the greatest difficulty, but with equal valour, twenty- 
eight years and a half. To trace in detail the mazy labyrinth 
of his labours was never my design ; because a recapitulation 
of his exploits in their exact order of time would occasion 
some confusion to the reader. For, to relate how a hostile 
army, driven by himself or his generals, from one part of a 
district, retreated to another ; and, dislodged thence, sought 
a fresh scene of operation and filled every place with rapine 
and slaughter ; and, if I may use the expression, " to go 
round the whole island with him," might to some seem the 
height of folly : consequently I shall touch on all points 
summarily. For nine successive years battling "vvith his 
enemies, sometimes deceived by false treaties, and sometimes 
wreaking his vengeance on the d^eivers, he was at last 
reduced to such extreme distress, that scarcely three 
counties, that is to say, Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Somer- 
setshire, stood fast by their allegiance, as he was compelled 
to retreat to a certain island called Athelney, which from its 
marshy situation was hardly accessible. He was accustomed 
afterwards, when in happier circumstances, to relate to his 
companions, in a lively and agreeable manner, his perils 
there, and how he escaped them by the merits of St. 
Cuthbert ; * for it frequently happens that men are pleased 
with the recollection of those circumstances, which formerlv 
they dreaded to encounter. During his retreat in this island, 
as he was one day in the house alone, his companions being 
dispersed on the river side for the purpose of fishing, he 
endeavoured to refresh his weary frame with sleep : and 
behold ! Cuthbert, formerly bishop of Lindisfarne, addressed 

* This legend will be found in the curious « account of the translation 
of the body of St. Cuthbert from Lindisfarne to Durham," which we shall 
give in " Anglo-Saxon Letters, Biographies," &c. It is taken from the 
Acta Sanctorum, iii. March, p. 127. 


114 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUBY. Lb. n. c. ir. 

him, while sleeping, in the following manner: — "I am 
Cuthbert, if ever you heard of me ; God hath sent me to 
announce good fortune to you ; and since England has 
already largely paid the penalty of her crimes, God now, 
through the merits of her native saints, looks upon her with 
an eye of mercy. You too, so pitiably banished from your 
kingdom, shaU shortly be again seated with honour on your 
throne ; of which I give you this extraordinary token : your 
fishers shall this day bring home a great quantity of large 
fish in baskets ; which will be so much the more ex- 
traordinary because the river, at this time hard-bound with ice, 
could warrant no such expectation ; especially as the air now 
dripping with cold rain mocks the art of the fisher. But, 
when your fortune shall succeed to your wishes, you will act 
as becomes a king, if you conciUate God your helper, and 
me his messenger, with suitable devotion." Saying thus, 
the saint divested the sleeping king of his anxiety ; and 
comforted his mother also, who was lying near him, and 
endeavouring to invite some gentle slumbers to her hard 
couch to reHeve her cares, with the same joyful intelligence. 
When they awoke, they repeatedly declared that each had 
had the self-same dream, when the fishermen entering, 
displayed such a multitude of fishes as would have been 
sufficient to satisfy the appetite of a numerous army. 

Not long after, venturing from his concealment, he 
hazarded an experiment of consummate art. Accompanied 
only by one of his most faithful adherents, he entered the 
tent of the Danish king under the disguise of a minstrel ; * 
and being admitted, as a professor of the mimic art, to the 
banqueting room, there was no object of secrecy that he did 
not minutely attend to both with eyes and ears. Remaining 
there several days, till he had satisfied his mind on every 
matter which he wished to know, he returned to Athelney : 
and assembling his companions, pointed out the indolence of 
the enemy and the easiness of their defeat. All were eager 
for the enterprise, and himself collecting forces from every 
side, and learning exactly the situation of the barbarians 
from scouts he had sent out for that purpose, he suddenly 
attacked and routed them with incredible slaughter. The 

• This story rests upon the authority of Ingulf and William of 
Malmesbury. Asser does not notice it. 

A.D. 878— 890.] DEFEAT OP THE DANES. 115 

remainder, with their king, gave hostages that they would 
embrace Christianity and depart from the country ; which 
they performed. For their king, Gothrun, whom our people 
call Grurmund, with thirty nobles and almost all the com- 
monalty, was baptized, Alfred standing for him ; and the 
provinces of the East Angles, and Northumbrians * were 
given up to him, in order that he might, under fealty to the 
king, protect with hereditary right, what before he had over- 
run with predatory incursion. However, as the Ethiopian 
cannot change his skin, he domineered over these tributary 
provinces with the haughtiness of a tyrant for eleven years, 
and died in the twelfth, transmitting to his posterity the inhe- 
ritance of his disloyalty, until subdued by Athelstan, the 
grandson of Alfred, they were, though reluctantly, compelled 
to admit one common king of England, as we see at the pre- 
sent day. Such of the Danes as had refused to become 
Christians, together with Hastings, went over sea, where the 
inhabitants are best able to tell what cruelties they perpe- 
trated. For overrunning the whole maritime coasts to the 
Tuscan sea, they unpeopled Paris and Tours, as well as 
many other cities seated on the Seine and Loire, those noted 
rivers of France. At that time the bodies of many saints 
being taken up from the spot of their original interment and 
conveyed to safer places, have ennobled foreign churches with 
their relics even to this day. Then also the body of St. 
Martin, venerated, as Sidonius says, over the whole earth, in 
which virtue resides though Ufe be at an end, was taken to 
Auxerre, by the clergy of his church, and placed in that of 
St. German, where it astonished the people of that district 
by unheard-of miracles. And when they who came thither, 
out of gratitude for cures performed, contributed many things 
to requite the labours of those who had borne him to this 
church, as is commonly the case, a dispute arose about the 
division of the money; the Turonians claiming the whole, 
because their patron had called the contributors together by 
his miracles : the natives, on the other hand, alleging that 
St. German was not unequal in merit, and was of equal 

• This seems a mistake as far relates to Northumbria. The Saxon 
Chronicle has " Northerna," and Florence of Worcester " Rex North- 
manicus," which at a first glance might easily be converted into Northum- 


116 WrLLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. n. c. 4. 

kindness ; that both indeed had the same power, but that 
the prerogative of their church preponderated. To solve 
this knotty doubt, a leprous person was sought, and placed, 
nearly at the last gasp, wasted to a skeleton, and already 
dead, as it were, in a living carcass, between the bodies of 
the two saints. All human watch was prohibited for the 
whole night : the glory of Martin alone was vigilant ; 
for the next day, the skin of the man on his side appeared 
clear, while on that of German, it was discoloured with its 
customary deformity. And, that they might not attribute 
this miracle to chance, they turned the yet diseased side to 
Martin. As soon as the morning began to dawn, the man 
was found by the hastening attendants with his skin smooth, 
perfectly cured, declaring the kind condescension of the 
resident patron, who yielded to the honour of such a wel- 
come stranger. Thus the Turonians, both at that time and 
afterwards, safely filled their common purse by the assistance 
of their patron, till a more favourable gale of peace restored 
them to their former residence. For these marauders infest- 
ing France for thirteen years, and being at last overcome by 
the emperor Ernulph and the people of Brittany in many 
encounters, retreated into England as a convenient receptacle 
for their tyranny. During this space of time Alfred had re- 
duced the whole island to his power, with the exception of 
what the Danes possessed. The Angles had willingly sur- 
rendered to liis dominion, rejoicing that they had produced a 
man capable of leading them to liberty. He granted Lon- 
don, the chief city of the Mercian kingdom, to a nobleman 
named Ethered, to hold in fealty, and gave him his daughter 
Ethelfled in marriage. Ethered conducted himself with 
equal valour and fidelity ; defended his trust with activity, 
and kept the East Angles and Northumbrians, who were 
fomenting rebellion against the king, within due bounds, 
compelling them to give hostages. Of what infinite service 
this was, the following emergency proved. After England 
had rejoiced for thirteen years in the tranquillity of peace 
and in the fertility of her soil, the northern pest of barba- 
rians again returned. With them returned war and slaugh- 
ter ; again arose conspiracies of the Northumbrians and East 
Angles: but neither strangers nor natives experienced the 
same fortune as in former years ; the one party, diminished 

A.D. 893.] KING Alfred's institutions. 117 

by foreign contests, were less alert in their invasions ; wliile 
the other, now experienced in war and animated by the ex- 
hortations of the king, were not only more ready to resist, 
but also to attack. The king himself was, with his usual 
activity, present in every action, ever daunting the invaders, 
and at the same time inspiriting his subjects, with the signal 
display of his courage. He would oppose himself singly to 
the enemy ; and by his own personal exertions rally his de- 
clining forces The very places are yet pointed out by the 
inhabitants where he felt the vicissitudes of good and evil 
fortune. It was necessary to contend with Alfred even after 
he was overcome, after he was prostrate; insomuch that 
when he might be supposed altogether vanquished, he would 
escape like a slippery serpent, from the hand which held 
him, glide from his lurking-place, and, with undiminished 
courage, spring on his insulting enemies : he was insupport- 
able after flight, and became more circumspect from the re- 
collection of defeat, more bold from the thirst of vengeance. 
His children by Elswitha, the daughter of earl Athelred, 
were Ethelswitha, Edward who reigned after him; Ethel- 
fled who was married to Ethered earl of the Mercians; 
Ethelwerd, whom they celebrate as being extremely learned ; 
Elfred and Ethelgiva, virgins. His health was so bad 
that he was constantly disquieted either by the piles or some 
disorder of the intestines. It is said, however, that he 
entreated this from God, in his supplications, in order that, 
hj the admonition of pain, he might be kss anxious after 
earthly delights. 

Yet amid these circumstances the private life of the king 
is to be admired and celebrated with the highest praise. 
For although, as some one has said, "Laws must give way 
amid the strife of arms," yet he, amid the sound of trumpets 
and the din of war, enacted statutes by which his people 
might equally familiarise themselves to religious worship 
and to military discipline. And since, from the example 
of the barbarians, the natives themselves began to lust after 
rapine, insomuch that there was no safe intercourse without 
a military guard, he appointed centuries, which they call 
"hundreds," and decennaries, that is to say, "tythings,'* so 
that every Englishman, living according to law, must be a 
member of both. If any one was accused of a crime, he 

118 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ii. c. 4. 

was obliged immediately to produce persons from the hun- 
dred and tything to become his surety ; and whosoever was 
unable to find such surety, must dread the severity of the 
laws. If any who was impleaded made his escape either 
before or after he had found surety, all persons of the hun- 
dred and tything paid a fine to the king. By this regulation 
he diiFused such peace throughout the country, that he or- 
dered golden bracelets, which might mock the eager desires 
of the passengers while no one durst take them away, to be 
liung up on the public causeways, where the roads crossed 
each other. Ever intent on almsgiving, he confirmed the 
privileges of the churches, as appointed by his father, and 
sent many presents over sea to Rome and to St. Thomas in 
India. Sighelm, bishop of Sherborne, sent ambassador for 
this purpose, penetrated successfully into India, a matter of 
astonishment even in the present time. Returning thence, 
he brought back many brilliant exotic gems and aromatic 
juices in which that country abounds, and a present more 
precious than the finest gold, part of our Saviour's cross, 
sent by pope Marinus to the king. He erected monasteries 
wherever he deemed it fitting; one in Athelney, where he 
lay concealed, as has been above related, and there he made 
John abbat, a native of Old Saxony ; another at Winchester, 
which is called the New -minster, where he appointed Grim- 
bald abbat, who, at his invitation, had been sent into Eng- 
land by Fulco archbishop of Rheims, known to him, as they 
say, by having kindly entertained him when a child on his 
way to Rome. The cause of his being sent for was that by 
his activity he might awaken the study of literature in Eng- 
land, which was now slumbering and almost expiring. The 
monastery of Shaftesbury also he filled with nuns, where he 
made his daughter Ethelgiva abbess. From St. David's he 
procured a person named Asser,* a man of skill in literature, 
whom he made bishop of Sherborne. This man explained 
the meaning of the works of Boethius, on the Consolation 
of Philosophy, in clearer terms, and the king himself trans- 
lated them into the English language. And since there was 
no good scholar in his own kingdom, he sent for Werefrith 

• Asser, the faithful friend and biographer of this great king. His Life 
of Alfred, alike honourable to his master and himself, is free from flattery. 
It is given in one of the volumes of our Series. 


bishop of Worcester out of Mercia, who by command of the 
king rendered into the English tongue the books of Gre- 
gory's Dialogues. At this time Johannes Scotus is supposed 
to have lived; a man of clear understanding and amazing 
eloquence. He had long since, from the continued tumult 
of war around him, retired into France to Charles the Bald, 
at whose request he had translated the Hierarchia of Diony- 
sius the Areopagite, word for word, out of the Greek into 
Latin. He composed a book also, which he entitled 'xs^i 
(pvffiuv /xs^i(r/j,ov, or Of the Division of Nature,* extremely 
useful in solving the perplexity of certain indispensable in- 
quiries, if he be pardoned for some things in which he de- 
viated from the opinions of the Latins, through too close 
attention to the Greeks. In after time, allured by the muni- 
ficence of Alfred, he came into England, and at our monas- 
tery, as report says, was pierced with the iron styles of the 
boys whom he was instructing, and was even looked upon as 
a martyr ; which phrase I have not made use of to the dis- 
paragement of his holy spirit, as though it were matter of 
doubt, especially as lus tomb on the left side of the altar, 
and the verses of his epitaph, record his fame.f These, 
though rugged and deficient in the polish of our days, are 
not so uncouth for ancient times : 

" Here lies a saint, the sophist John, whose days 
On earth were grac'd with deepest learning's praise : 
Deera'd meet at last by martyrdom to gain 
Christ's kingdom, where the saints for ever reign." 

Confiding in these auxiliaries, the king gave his whole 
soul to the cultivation of the liberal arts, insomuch that no 
Englishman was quicker in comprehending, or more elegant 
in translating. This was the more remarkable, because until 
twelve years of age he absolutely knew nothing of literature. J 

* It has been printed by Gale, Oxon, 1681. 

+ John the Scot is generally supposed to have died in France before 
A.D. 877, as the letter of Anastasius (Usher's Sylloge, Ep. 24,) addressed 
to Charles the Bald, who died in that year, seems strongly to imply that he 
was not then living. There is, however, no positive notice of the time of 
his death. The story indeed has so much the air of one told in Asser of 
John abbat of Athelney, that one would almost suspect it was formed from 
it : especially as Malmesbury seems to speak in a very hesitating manner 
on the subject. V. Asser, a Wise, p. 62. 

J Asser says he first began his literary education, Nov. 11, 887. 

120 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. [b. u. c. 4. 

At that time, lured by a kind mother, who under the mask of 
amusement promised that he should have a little book which 
she held in her hand for a present if he would learn it 
quickly, he entered upon learning in sport indeed at first, 
but afterwards drank of the stream with unquenchable avid- 
ity. He translated into English the greater part of the 
Roman authors, bringing ofi* the noblest spoil of foreign 
intercourse for the use of his subjects ; of which the chief 
books were Orosius, Gregory's Pastoral, Bede's History of 
the Angles, Boethius Of the Consolation of Philosophy, his 
own book, which he called in his vernacular tongue " Hand- 
boc," that is, a manual.* Moreover he infused a great re- 
gard for literature into his countrymen, stimulating them 
both with rewards and punishments, allowing no ignorant 
person to aspire to any dignity in the court. He died just 
as he had begun a translation of the Psalms. Jn the pro- 
logue to " The Pastoral " he observes, " that he was incited 
to translate these books into English because the churches 
which had formerly contained numerous libraries had, to- 
gether with their books, been burnt by the Danes." And 
again, "that the pursuit of literature had gone to decay 
almost over the whole island, because each person was more 
occupied in the preservation of his life than in the perusal 
of books; wherefore he so far consulted the good of his 
countrymen, that they might now hastily view what here- 
after, if peace should ever return, they might thoroughly 
comprehend in the Latin language." Again, " That he de- 
signed to transmit this book, transcribed by his order, to 
every see, with a golden style in which was a mancus of 
gold; that there was nothing of his own opinions inserted 
in this or his other translations, but that everything was 
derived from those celebrated men Plegmundf archbishop 
of Canterbury, Asser the bishop, Grimbald and John the 
priests." But, in short, I may thus briefly elucidate his 

* Alfred's Manual, from the description which Asser gives of it, appears 
to have contained psalms, prayers, texts of Scripture, etc. : Malmesbury, 
however, in his Lives of the Bishops, quotes anecdotes of Aldhelm from 
it also. 

+ Plegmund is said to have written part of the Saxon Chronicle ; Asser 
was archbishop of St. David's, and biographer of Alfred ; Grimbald, 
abbat of St. Omers; and John of Corvey, a German Saxon, whom Alfred 
invited into England. 

A.D. 893.] KING Alfred's death. 121 

whole life : he so divided the twenty-four hours of the day 
and night as to employ eight of them in writing, in reading, 
and in prayer, eight in the refreshment of his body, and 
eight in dispatching the business of the realm. There was 
in his chapel a candle consisting of twenty-four divisions, 
and an attendant, whose peculiar province it was to ad- 
monish the king of his several duties by its consumption. 
One half of all revenues, provided they were justly acquired, 
he gave to his* monasteries, all his other income he divided 
into two equal parts, the first was again subdivided into 
three, of which the first was given to the servants of his 
court, the second to artificers whom he constantly employed 
in the erection of new edifices, in a manner surprising and 
hitherto unknown to the English, the third he gave to 
strangers. The second part of the revenue was divided in 
such a mode that the first portion should be given to the 
poor of his kingdom, the second to the monasteries, the 
third to scholars,! the fourth to foreign churches. He was 
a strict inquirer into the sentences passed by his magistrates, 
and a severe corrector of such as were unjust. He had one 
unusual and unheard of custom, which was, that he always 
carried in his bosom a book in wliich the daily order of the 
Psalms was contained, for the purpose of carefully perusing 
it, if at any time he had leisure. In this way he passed his 
life, much respected by neighbouring princes, and gave his 
daughter Ethelswitha in marriage to Baldwin earl of Flan- 
ders, by whom he had Arnulf and Ethelwulf ; the former 
received from his father the county of Boulogne, from the 
other at this day are descended the earls of Flanders.J 

Alfred, paying the debt of nature, was buried at Winches- 
ter, in the monastery which he had founded ; to build the 
offices of which Edward, his son, purchased a sufficient space 
of ground from the bishop and canons, giving, for every foot, 
a mancus of gold of the statute weight. The endurance of 

* Asser says he devoted one half of his income "to God;" which part 
was afterwards subdivided for the poor, for the two monasteries he had 
founded, for the school he had established, for other monasteries and 
churches, domestic and foreign. 

t This proportion was for both teachers and pupils in the school he 
founded for the young nobility. — Lappenberg^ vol. i. p. 340. 

X Matilda, queen of William the First, was daughter of Baldwin earl of 
Flanders, the fifth in descent from Ethelswitha. See note, p. 110. 

122 -WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ii. c. 5. 

the king was astonishing, in suffering such a sum to be 
extorted from him ; but he did not choose to offer a sacrifice 
to God from the robbery of the poor. These two churches 
were so contiguous, that, when singing, they heard each 
others' voices ; on this and other accounts an unhappy 
jealousy was daily stirring up causes of dissension, which 
produced frequent injuries on either side. For this reason 
that monastery was lately removed out of the city, and 
became a more healthy, as well as a more conspicuous, resi- 
dence. They report that Alfred was first buried in the 
cathedral, because his monastery was unfinished, but that 
afterwards, on account of the folly of the canons, who as- 
serted that the royal spirit, resuming its carcass, wandered 
nightly through the buildings, Edward, his son and suc- 
cessor, removed the remains of his father, and gave them a 
quiet resting-place in the new minster. * These and similar 
superstitions, such as that the dead body of a wicked man 
runs about, after death, by the agency of the devil, the Eng- 
lish hold with almost inbred credulity, "j* borrowing them 
from the heathens, according to the expression of Virgil, 

" Forms such as flit, they say, when life is gone."^ 


Of Edward the son of A If red. [a.d. 90 1—924.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation, 901, Edward, the son 
of Alfred, succeeded to the government, and held it twenty 
three years : he was much inferior to his father in literature, 
but greatly excelled in extent of power. For Alfred, indeed, 
united the two kingdoms of the Mercian and West Saxons, 
holding that of the Mercians only nominally, as he had 
assigned it to prince Ethelred : but at his death Edward 
first brought the Mercians altogether under his power, next, 
the West§ and East Angles, and Northumbrians, who had 

• On its removal called Hyde Abbey. 

+ The popular notion was, that the' devil re-animated the corpse, and 
played a variety of pranks by its agency; and that the only remedy was to 
dig up and consume the body with fire. See Will. Neubrig v. 22. 

% Virg. ^neid, x. 641. 

§ By West- Angles he probably intends the people of Essex or East- 
Saxons. See Florence of Worcester. 

A-D. 901.J EDWARD. 123 

become one nation with the Danes ; the Scots, who inhabit 
the northern part of the island ; and all the Britons, whom 
we call Welsh, after perpetual battles, in which he was 
always successful. He devised a mode of frustrating the 
incursions of the Danes ; for he repaired many ancient cities, 
or built new ones, in places calculated for his purpose, and 
filled them with a military force, to protect the inhabitants 
and repel the enemy. Nor was his design unsuccessful ; for 
the inhabitants became so extremely valorous in these con- 
tests, that if they heard of an enemy approaching, they 
rushed out to give them battle, even without consulting the 
king or his generals, and constantly surpassed them, both in 
number and in warlike skill. Thus the enemy became an 
object of contempt to the soldiery and of derision to the 
king. At last some fresh assailants, who had come over 
under the command of Ethelwald, the son of the king's 
uncle, were all, together with himself, cut off to a man ; 
those before, settled in the country, being either destroyed 
or spared under the denomination of Angles. Ethelwald 
indeed had attempted many things in the earlier days of this 
king ; and, disdaining subjection to him, declared himself 
his inferior neither in birth nor valour ; but being driven 
into exile by the nobility, who had sworn allegiance to 
Edward, he brought over the pirates ; with whom, meeting 
his death, as I have related, he gave proof of the folly of 
resisting those who are our superiors in power. Although 
Edward may be deservedly praised for these transactions, 
yet, in my opinion, the palm should be more especially given 
to his father, who certainly laid the foundation of this extent 
of dominion. And here indeed Ethelfled, sister of the 
king and relict of Ethered, ought not to be forgotten, as she 
was a powerful accession to his party, the delight of his sub- 
jects, the dread of his enemies, a woman of an enlarged soul, 
who, from the difficulty experienced in her first labour, ever 
after refused the embraces of her husband ; protesting that 
it was unbecoming the daughter of a king to give way to a 
delight which, after a time, produced such painful conse- 
quences. This spirited heroine assisted her brother greatly 
with her advice, was of equal service in building cities, nor 
could you easily discern, whether it was more owing to for- 
tune or her own exertions, that a woman should be able to 

12'4 WILLIAM OF MALMESBtJRT. [b. ii. c. 5. 

protect men at home, and to intimidate them abroad. She 
died five years before her brother, and was buried in the 
monastery of St. Peter's, at Grloucester; which, in conjunc- 
tion with her husband, Ethered, she had erected with great 
solicitude. Thither too she had transferred the bones of St. 
Oswald, the king, from Bardney ; but this monastery being 
destroyed in succeeding time by the Danes, Aldred, arch- 
bishop of York, founded another, which is now the chief in 
that city. 

As the king had many daughters, he gave Edgiva to 
Charles, king of France, the son of Lewis the Stammerer, 
son of Charles the Bald, whose daughter, as I have repeat- 
edly observed, Ethelwulf had married on his return from 
Rome ; and, as the opportunity has now presented itself, the 
candid reader will not think it irrelevant, if I state the 
names of his wives and children. By Egwina, an illustrious 
lady, he had Athelstan, his first-born, and a daughter, whose 
name I cannot particularise, but her brother gave her in 
marriage to Sihtric, king of the Northumbrians. The second 
son of Edward was Ethelward, by Elfleda, daughter of earl 
Etheline ; deeply versed in literature, much resembling his 
grandfather Alfred in features and disposition, but who de- 
parted, by an early death, soon after his father. By the 
same wife he had Edwin, of whose fate what the received 
opinion is I shall hereafter describe, not with confidence, but 
doubtingly. By her too he had six daughters; Edfleda, 
Edgiva, Ethelhilda, Ethilda, Edgitha, Elgifa: the first and 
third vowing celibacy to God, renounced the pleasure oi 
earthly nuptials ; Edfleda in a religious, and Ethelhilda in a 
lay habit : they both lie buried near their mother, at Win- 
chester. Her father gave Edgiva, as I have mentioned, to 
king Charles,* and her brother, Athelstan, gave Ethilda to 
Hugh:f this same brother also sent Edgitha and Elgifa to 
Henry, | emperor of Germany, the second of whom he gave 
to his son Otho, the other to a certain duke, near the Alps. 

• Charles the Simple had one son by her, Louis II., surnamed 

f Surnamed the Great: father of Hugh Capet: she had no issue by him. 

:J: Henry, surnamed the Fowler, father of Otho the Great. She had a 
son and daughter by him. One of Edward's daughters, called Adela, is 
said to have been married to Ebles, earl of Poitiers, by whom she had two' 
sous. See L'Art de Verifier les Dates, ii. 312. 

A.D. 912.] EDWAED. 125 

Again ; by his third wife, named Edgiva, he had two sons, 
Edmund and Edred, each of whom reigned after Athelstan : 
two daughters, Eadburga, and Edgiva ; Eadburga, a virgin, 
dedicated to Christ, lies buried at Winchester; Edgiva, a 
lady of incomparable beauty, was united, by her brother 
Athelstan, to Lewis, prince of Aquitaine.* Edward had 
brought up his daughters in such wise, that in childhood 
they gave their whole attention to literature, and afterwards 
employed themselves in the labours of the distaff and the 
needle, that thus they might chastely pass their virgin age. 
His sons were so educated, as, first, to have the completest 
benefit of learning, that afterwards they might succeed to 
govern the state, not like rustics, but philosophers. 

Charles, the son-in-law of Edward, constrained thereto by 
Rollo, through a succession of calamities, conceded to him 
that part of Gaul which at present is called Normandy. It 
would be tedious to relate for how many years, and with 
what audacity, the Normans disquieted every place from the 
British ocean, as I have said, to the Tuscan sea. First 
Hasten, and then Rollo ; who, born of noble lineage among 
the Norwegians, though obsolete from its extreme antiquity, 
was banished, by the king's command, from his own country, 
and brought over with him multitudes, who were in danger, 
either from debt or consciousness of guilt, and whom he had 
allured by great expectations of advantage. Betaking him- 
self therefore to piracy, after his cruelty had raged on 
every side at pleasure, he experienced a check at Chartres. 
For the townspeople, relying neither on arms nor fortifica- 
tions, piously implored the assistance of the blessed Virgin 
Mary. The shift too of the virgin, which Charles the Bald 
had brought with other relics from Constantinople, they 
displayed to the winds on the ramparts, thronged by -the 
garrison, after the fashion of a banner. The enemy on see- 
ing it began to laugh, and to direct their arrows at it. This, 
however, was not done with impunity; for presently their 
eyes became dim, and they could neither retreat nor ad- 
vance. The townsmen, vdth joy perceiving this, indulged 

* This seems to have been Lewis the Blind, king of Aries: and if so, 
she must have been one of the elder daughters, as he appears not to have 
survived a.d. 930. She had, at least, one son by him, Charles Constantine, 
earl of Vienne. See L'Art de Verifier les Dates, ii. 429. 

126 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ir. c. 5. 

themselves in a plentiful slaughter of them, as far as fortune 
permitted. Rollo, however, virhom God reserved for the 
true faith, escaped, and soon after gained Rouen and the 
neighbouring cities by force of arms, in the year of our Lord 
876, and one year before the death of Charles the Bald, 
whose grandson Lewis, as is before mentioned, vanquished 
the Normans, but did not expel them: but Charles, the 
brother of that Lewis, grandson of Charles the Bald, by his 
son Lewis, as I have said above, repeatedly experiencing, 
from unsuccessful conflicts, that fortune gave him nothing 
which she took from others, resolved, after consulting his 
nobility, that it was advisable to make a show of royal 
munificence, when he was unable to repel injury ; and, in a 
friendly manner, sent for Rollo. He was at this time far 
advanced in years ; and, consequently, easily inclined to 
pacific measures. It was therefore determined by treaty, 
that he should be baptized, and hold that country of the 
king as his lord. The inbred and untameable ferocity of the 
man may well be imagined, for, on receiving this gift, as the 
by standers suggested to him, that he ought to kiss the foot 
of his benefactor, disdaining to kneel down, he seized the 
king's foot and dragged it to his mouth as he stood erect. 
The king falling on liis back, the Normans began to laugh, 
and the Franks to be indignant; but Rollo apologized for 
his shameful conduct, by saying that it was the custom of 
his country. Thus the affair being settled, RoUo xeturned 
to Rouen, and there died. 

The son of this Charles was Lewis : he being challenged 
by one Isembard, that had turned pagan, and renounced his 
faith, called upon his nobility for their assistance : they not 
even deigned an answer ; when one Hugh, son of Robert, 
earl of Mont Didier, a youth of no great celebrity at the 
time, voluntarily entered the lists for his lord and killed the 
challenger. Lewis, vdth his whole army pursuing to Pon- 
thieu, gained there a glorious triumph ; either destroying or 
putting to flight all the barbarians whom Isembard had 
brought with him. But not long after, weakened by ex- 
treme sickness, the consequence of this laborious expedition, 
he appointed this Hugh, a young man of noted faith and 
courage, heir to the kingdom. Thus the lineage of Charles 
the Great ceased with him, because either his wife was bar- 

A.D. 912.] POPE FORMOSUS. 127 

ren, or else did not live long enough to have issue. Hugh 
married one of the daughters of Edward,* and begot Robert ; 
Robert begot Henry ; Henry, Philip ; and Philip, Lewis, 
who now reigns in France. But to return to our Edward : 
I think it will be pleasing to relate what in his time pope 
Formosus commanded to be done with respect to filling up 
the bishoprics, which I shall insert in the very words I found 

" In the year of our Lord's nativity 904, pope Formosus 
sent letters into England, by which he denounced excommu- 
nication and malediction to king Edward and all his subjects, 
instead of the benediction which St. Gregory had given to 
the English nation from the seat of St. Peter, because for 
seven whole years the entire district of the Gewissae, that is, 
of the West- Saxons, had been destitute of bishops. On hear- 
ing this, king Edward assembled a council of the senators of 
the English, over which presided Plegmund, archbishop of 
Canterbury, interpreting carefully the words of the apostolic 
legation. Then the king and the bishops chose for them- 
selves and their followers a salutary council, and, according 
to our Saviour's words, ' The harvest truly is plenteous, but 
the labourers are few,' J they elected and appointed one bi- 
shop to every province of the Gewissae, and that district which 
two formerly possessed they divided into five. The council 

• This is a mistake : Hugh is confounded with his father, who married 
Edward's daughter. There is no notice of this exploit of Hugh's in Bou- 
quet, though Isembard is mentioned as the nephew of Lewis, who, being 
unjustly banished, returns accompanied by a large body of Danes and Nor- 
mans, but is defeated. Bouquet, Recueil, &c. tom. ix. 58. Lewis, how- 
ever, left issue, and it was on the death of his grandson Lewis, that Hugh 
Capet became king of France. 

f This story of pope Formosus and the seven bishops is to be foimd 
verbatim in a MS. (Bodley, 579) which was given to the cathedral of Exe- 
ter by bishop Leofiric, who died a.d. 1073. Its difficulties therefore are 
not to be imputed to our author. But though it may not be easy to assign 
a rational motive for the invention of such an instrument, it is a decided 
forgery ; and all the ecclesiastical writers, from Baronius to Wilkins, [See 
Concilia, i. p. 201,] have utterly failed in their conjectural attempts to up- 
hold it : even the temperate, the acute, the learned Henry Wharton [An- 
glia Sacra, i. 55i, 5], who rejects decidedly the epistle, gives but an un- 
satisfactory solution of the seven vacant sees. Its repugnancies will be 
seen at a glance, when it is recollected, that Formosus died a.d. 896 ; 
Edward did not reign till a.d. 901 ; and Frithstan did not become bishop 
of Winchester before a.d. 910. 

X Matt. ix. 37. 

128 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 6. 

being dissolved, the archbishop went to Rome with splendid 
presents, appeased the pope with much humility, and related 
the king's ordinance, which gave the pontiff great satisfac- 
tion. Returning home, in one day he ordained in the city of 
Canterbury seven bishops to seven churches : — Frithstan to 
the church of Winchester ; Athelstan to Cornwall ; Werstan 
to Sherborne ; Athelelm to Wells ; Aidulf to Crediton in 
Devonshire : also to other provinces he appointed two bi- 
shops ; to the South- Saxons, Bernegus, a very proper person ; 
and to the Mercians, Cenulph, whose see was at Dorchester, 
in Oxfordshire. All this the pope established, in such wise, 
that he who should invalidate this decree should be damned 

Edward, going the way of all flesh, rested in the same mo- 
nastery with his father, which he had augmented with con- 
siderable revenues, and in which he had buried his brother 
Ethelward four years before. 


Of Athelstan, the son of Edward, [a.d. 924 — 940.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 924, Athelstan, the son 
of Edward, began to reign, and held the sovereignty sixteen 
years. His brother, Ethelward, dying a few days after his 
father, had been buried with him at Winchester. At this 
place, therefore, Athelstan, being elected king by the unani- 
mous consent of the nobility, he was crowned at a royal 
town, which is called Kingston ; though one Elfred, whose 
death we shall hereafter relate in the words of the king, with 
his factious party, as sedition never wants adherents, at- 
tempted to prevent it. The ground of his opposition, as 
they affirm, was, that Athelstan was born of a concubine. 
But having nothing ignoble in him, except this stain, if after 
all it be true, he cast aU his predecessors into the shade by 
his piety, as well as the glory of all their triumphs, by the 
splendour of his own. So much more excellent is it to have 
that for which we are renowned inherent, than derived from 
our ancestors ; because the former is exclusively our own, 
the latter is imputable to others. I forbear relating how 
many new and magnificent monasteries he founded ; but I 
will not conceal that there was scarcely an old one in Eng- 

A.D. 927.] ATHELSTAN. 129 

land which he did not embellish, either with buildings, or 
ornaments, or books, or possessions. Thus he ennobled the 
new ones expressly, but the old, as though they were only 
casual objects of his kindness. With Sihtric, king of the 
Northumbrians, who married, as I have before said, one of 
his sisters, he made a lasting covenant ; he dying after a 
year, Athelstan took that province under his own govern- 
ment, expelUng one Aldulph, who resisted liim. And as a 
noble mind, when once roused, aspires to greater things, he 
compelled Jothwel, king of all the Welsh, and Constantine, 
king of the Scots, to quit their kingdoms ; but not long after, 
moved with commiseration, he restored them to their origi- 
nal state, that they might reign under him, saying, " it was 
more glorious to make than to be a king." His last contest 
was with Anlaf, the son of Sihtric, who, with the before- 
named Constantine, again in a state of rebellion, had entered 
his territories under the hope of gaining the kingdom. 
Athelstan purposely retreating, that he might derive greater 
honour from vanquishing his furious assailants, this bold 
youth, meditating unlawful conquests, had now proceeded 
far into England, when he was opposed at Bruneford* by the 
most experienced generals, and most valiant forces. Per- 
ceiving, at length, what danger hung over him, he assumed 
the character of a spy. Laying aside his royal ensigns, and 
taking a harp in his hand, he proceeded to our king's tent : 
singing before the entrance, and at times touching the trem- 
bling strings in harmonious cadence, he was readily admitted, 
professing liimself a minstrel, who procured his daily suste- 
nance by such employment. Here he entertained the king 
and his companions for some time with his musical perform- 
ance, carefully examining everything while occupied in sing- 
ing. When satiety of eating had put an end to their sensual 
enjoyments, and the business of war was resumed among the 
nobles, he was ordered to depart, and received the recom- 
pence of his song ; but disdaining to take it away, he hid it 
beneath him in the earth. This circumstance was remarked 
by a person, who had formerly served under him, and im- 
mediately related it to Athelstan. The king, blaming him 

* In the Saxon Chronicle it is called Brumby. [See Chronicles of tli^ 
Anglo-Saxons, in Bohn's Antiquarian Library, pp. 376, 377.] Its site is 
not exactly known, but it was probably not far from the Humber. 


130 WILLIAM OP MALMESBURT. [b.ii.c.6. 

extremely for not having detected his enemy as he stood be- 
fore them, received this answer : " The same oath, which I 
have lately sworn to you, O king, I formerly made to An- 
laf ; and had you seen me violate it towards him, you might 
have expected similar perfidy towards yourself: but con- 
descend to listen to the advice of your servant, which is, that 
you should remove your tent hence, and remaining in another 
place till the residue of the army come up, you will destroy 
your ferocious enemy by a moderate delay." Approving 
this admonition, he removed to another place. Anlaf ad- 
vancing, well prepared, at night, put to death, together with 
the whole of his followers, a certain bishop,* who had joined 
the army only the evening before, and, ignorant of what had 
passed, had pitched his tent there on account of the level 
turf. Proceeding farther, he found the king himself equally 
unprepared ; who, little expecting his enemy capable of such 
an attack, had indulged in profound repose. But, when 
roused from his sleep by the excessive tumult, and urging 
his people, as much as the darkness of the night would per- 
mit, to the conflict, his sword fell by chance from the sheath ; 
upon which, while all things were filled with dread and blind 
confusion, he invoked the protection of God and of St. Aid- 
helm, who was distantly related to him ; and replacing his 
hand upon the scabbard, he there found a sword, which is 
kept to this day, on account of the miracle, in the treasury 
of the kings. Moreover, it is, as they say, chased in one part, 
but can never be inlaid either with gold or silver. Confiding 
in this divine present, and at the same time, as it began to 
dawn, attacking the Norwegian, he continued the battle 
unwearied through the day, and put him to flight with his 
whole army. There fell Constantine, king of the Scots, a 
man of treacherous energy and vigorous old age ; five other 
kings, twelve earls, and almost the whole assemblage of bar- 
barians. The few who escaped were preserved to embrace 
the faith of Christ. 

Concerning this king a strong persuasion is prevalent 
among the English, that one more just or learned never go- 
verned the kingdom. That he was versed in literature, I 

* Said to be Werstan, bishop of Sherborne. See Malmesbury's Gesta 
Pontificum ; or, Lives of the Bishops, to be hereafter translated and pub- 
lished in this series. 

A.D.924.J ATHELSTAN. 131 

discovered a few days since, in a certain old volume, wherein 
the writer struggles with the difficulty of the task, unable to 
express his meaning as he wished. Indeed I would subjoin 
his words for brevity's sake, were they not extravagant be- 
yond belief in the praises of the king, and just in that style 
of writing which Cicero, the prince of Roman eloquence, 
in his book on Rhetoric, denominates " bombast." The cus- 
tom of that time excuses the diction, and the affection for 
Athelstan, who was yet living, gave coimtenance to the ex- 
cess of praise. I shall subjoin, therefore, in familiar lan- 
guage, some few circumstances which may tend to augment 
Ms reputation. 

King Edward, after many noble exploits, both in war and 
peace, a few days before his death subdued the contumacy of 
the city of Chester, which was rebelling in confederacy with 
the Britons; and placing a garrison there, he fell sick and 
died at Faringdon, and was buried, as I before related, at 
Winchester. Athelstan, as his father had commanded in his 
will, was then hailed king, recommended by his years, — for 
he was now thirty, — and the maturity of his wisdom. For 
even his grandfather Alfred, seeing and embracing him affec- 
tionately when he was a boy of astonishing beauty and 
graceful manners, had most devoutly prayed that his govern- 
ment might be prosperous : indeed, he had made him a 
knight* unusually early, giving him a scarlet cloak, a belt 
studded with diamonds, and a Saxon sword with a golden 
scabbard. Next he had provided that he should be educated 
in the court of Ethelfled his daughter, and of his son-in- 
law Ethered ; so that, having been brought up in expecta- 
tion of succeeding to the kingdom, by the tender care of his 
aunt and of this celebrated prince, he repressed and destroyed 
all envy by the lustre of his good qualities ; and, after the 
death of his father, and decease of his brother, he was 
crowned at Kingston. Hence, to celebrate such splendid 
events, and the joy of that illustrious day, the poet justly 
exclaims : 

* This passage is thought to prove the existence of knights as a distinct 
order among the Saxons ; and, coupled with the case of Hereward, it has 
very much that air. See Mr. Turner's Anglo-Saxons, 4, 171, et inf. But 
perhaps in the present instance, it may amount to nothing more than 
bestowing his first arms on him. Lewis the Debonnaire received his arms, 
*^ ease accinctus est," at thirteen yeirs old. — Duchesne, t. ii. 289. 


132 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKT. [b. ii. c 6. 

Of royal race a noble stem 
Hath chased our darkness like a gem. 
Great Athelstan, his country's pride, 
Whose virtue never turns aside ; 
Sent by his father to the schools, 
Patient, he bore their rigid rules. 
And drinking deep of science mild. 
Passed his first years unlike a child. 
Next clothed in youth's bewitching charms. 
Studied the harsher lore of arms, 
Which soon confessed his knowledge keen. 
As after in the sovereign seen. 
Soon as his father, good and great, 
Yielded, though ever famed, to fate. 
The youth was called the realm to guide, 
And, like his parent, well preside. 
The nobles meet, the crown present. 
On rebels, prelates curses vent ; 
The people light the festive fires, 
And show by turns their kind desires. 
Their deeds their loyalty declare, 
Though hopes and fears their bosoms share. 
With festive treat the court abounds ; 
Foams the brisk wine, the hall resounds : 
The pages run, the servants haste. 
And food and verse regale the taste. 
The minstrels sing, the guests commend, 
Whilst all in praise to Christ contend. 
The king with pleasure all things sees. 
And all his kind attentions please. 

The solemnity of tlie consecration being finished, Athel- 
stan, that he might not deceive the expectation of his subjects, 
and fall below their opinion, subdued the whole of England, 
except Northumbria, by the single terror of his name. One 
Sihtric, a relation of that Gothrun who is mentioned in the 
history of Alfred, presided over this people, a barbarian both 
by race and disposition, who, though he ridiculed the power 
of preceding kings, humbly solicited affinity with Athelstan, 
sending messengers expressly for the purpose ; and himself 
shortly following confirmed the proposals of the ambassadors. 
In consequence, honoured by a union with his sister, and 
by various presents, he laid the basis of a perpetual treaty. 
But, as I have before observed, dying at the end of a year, 
he afforded Athelstan an opportunity for uniting Northum- 
bria, which belonged to him both by ancient right and recent 
affinity, to his sovereignty. Anlaf, the son of Sihtric, then 

A.D. 926] ATHELSTAN. 133 

fled into Ireland, and his brother Guthferth into Scotland. 
Messengers from the king immediately followed to Constan- 
tine, king of the Scots, and Eugenius, king of the Cumbrians, 
claiming the fugitive under a threat of war. The barbarians 
had no idea of resistance, but without delay coming to a 
place called Dacor, they surrendered themselves and their 
kingdoms to the sovereign of England. Out of regard to 
this treaty, the king himself stood for the son of Constantine, 
who was ordered to be baptized, at the sacred font. Guth- 
ferth, however, amid the preparations for the journey, escaped 
by flight with one Turfrid, a leader of the opposite party ; 
and afterwards laying siege to York, where he could succeed 
in bringing the townsmen to surrender neither by entreaties 
nor by threats, he departed. Not long after, being both 
shut up in a castle, they eluded the vigilance of the guards, 
and escaped. Turfrid, losing his life quickly after by ship- 
wreck, became a prey to fishes. Guthferth, suffering ex- 
tremely both by sea and land, at last came a suppliant to 
court. Being amicably received by the king, and sumptuous- 
ly entertained for four days, he resought his ships ; an 
incorrigible pirate, and accustomed to live in the water like 
a fish. In the meantime Athelstan levelled with the ground 
the castle which the Danes had formerly fortified in York, 
that there might be no place for disloyalty to shelter in ; 
and the booty which had been found there, which was very 
considerable, he generously divided, man by man, to the 
whole army. For he had prescribed himself this rule of 
conduct, never to hoard up riches ; but liberally to expend 
all his acquisition either on monasteries or on his faithful 
followers. On these, during the whole of his life, he ex- 
pended his paternal treasures, as well as the produce of his 
victories. To the clergy he was humble and affable ; to the 
laity mild and pleasant ; to the nobility rather reserved, from 
respect to his dignity ; to the lower classes, laying aside the 
stateliness of power, he was kind and condescending. He 
was, as we have heard, of becoming stature, thin in person, 
his hair flaxen, as I have seen by his remains, and beautifully 
wreathed with golden threads. Extremely beloved by his 
subjects from admiration of his fortitude and humility, he 
was terrible to those who rebelled against him, through his 
invincible courage. He compelled the rulers of the northern 

134 WILLIAM OF JIALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. (5. 

Welsh, that is, of the North Britons, to meet him at the city 
of Hereford, and after some opposition to surrender to his 
power. So that he actually brought to pass what no king 
before him had even presumed to think of : wliich was, that 
they should pay annually by way of tribute, twenty pounds 
of gold, three hundred of silver, twenty-five thousand oxen, 
besides as many dogs as he might choose, which from their 
sagacious scent could discover the retreats and hiding places 
of wild beasts ; and birds, trained to make prey of others in 
the air. Departing thence, he turned towards the Western 
Britons, who are called the Cornwallish, because, situated in 
the west of Britain, they are opposite to the extremity of 
Gaul.* Fiercely attacking, he obliged them to retreat from 
Exeter, which, till that time, they had inhabited with equal 
privileges with the Angles, fixing the boundary of their 
province on the other side of the river Tamar, as he had ap- 
pointed the river Wye to the North Britons. This city then, 
which he had cleansed by purging it of its contaminated 
race, he fortified with towers and surrounded with a wall of 
squared stone. And, though the barren and unfruitful soil 
can scarcely produce indifferent oats, and frequently only the 
empty husk without the grain, yet, owing to the magnificence 
of the city, the opulence of its inhabitants, and the constant 
resort of strangers, every kind of merchandise is there so 
abundant that nothing is wanting which can conduce to hu- 
man comfort. Many noble traces of him are to be seen in 
that city, as well as in the neighbouring district, which will 
be better described by the conversation of the natives, than 
by my narrative. 

On this account all Europe resounded with his praises, 
and extolled his valour to the skies : foreign princes with 
justice esteemed themselves happy if they could purchase his 
friendship either by affinity or by presents. Harold king of 
Norway sent him a ship with golden beak and a purple sail, 
furnished within with a compacted fence of gilded shields. 
The names of the persons sent with it, were Helgrim and 
Offrid : who, being received with princely magnificence in 
the city of York, were amply compensated, by rich presents, 
for the labour of their journey. Henry the First, for there 
were many of the name, the son of Conrad, king of the 
* Cornu Gallise, a fanciful etymology. 

A.n- 923.] ATHELSTAN. 135 

Teutoniaiis and emperor of the Romans, demanded his sister, 
as I have before related, for his son Otho : passing over so 
many neighbouring kings, but contemplating from a distance 
Athelstan's noble descent, and greatness of mind. So com- 
pletely indeed had these two qualities taken up their abode 
with him, that none could be more noble or illustrious in 
descent ; none more bold or prompt in disposition. Maturely 
considering that he had four sisters, who were all equally 
beautiful, except only as their ages made a difference, he 
sent two to the emperor at liis request ; and how he disposed 
of them in marriage has already been related : Lewis prince 
of Aquitania, a descendant of Charles the Great, obtained 
the third in wedlock : the fourth, in whom the whole essence 
of beauty had centred, which the others only possessed in 
part, was demanded from her brother by Hugh king of the 
Franks.* The chief of this embassy was Adulph, son of 
Baldwin earl of Flanders by Ethelswitha daughter of king 
Edward, f When he had declared the request of the suitor 
in an assembly of the nobility at Abingdon, he produced such 
liberal presents as might gratify the most boundless avarice : 
perfumes such as never had been seen in England before : 
jewels, but more especially emeralds, the greenness of which, 
reflected by the sun, illumined the countenances of the 
bystanders with agreeable light : many fleet horses with 
their trappings, and, as Virgil says, " Champing their golden 
bits : " an alabaster vase so exquisitely chased, that, the corn- 
fields really seemed to wave, the vines to bud, the figures of 
men actually to move, and so clear and polished, that it 
reflected the features like a mirror ; the sword of Constantine 
the Great, on which the name of its original possessor was 
read in golden letters ; on the pommel, upon thick plates of 
gold, might be seen fixed an iron spike, one of the four 
which the Jewish faction prepared for the crucifixion of our 
Lord : the spear of Charles the Great, which whenever that 
invincible emperor hurled in his expeditions against the 
Saracens, he always came off conqueror ; it was reported to 
be the same, which, driven into the side of our Saviour by 

• * Improperly called king : it was Hugh the Great, father of Hugh 
Capet. Malmesbury was probably deceived by a blunder of Ingulfs. 
t This is a mistake, she was daughter of Alfred. See chap. iv. p. 117. 


the hand of the centurion,* opened, by that precious wound, 
the joys of paradise to wretched mortals : the banner of the 
most blessed martyr Maurice, chief of the Theban legion ; | 
with which the same king, in the Spanish war, used to break 
through the battalions of the enemy however fierce and 
wedged together, and put them to flight : a diadem, precious 
from its quantity of gold, but more so for its jewels, the 
splendour of which threw the sparks of Hght so strongly on 
the beholders, that the more stedfastly any person en- 
deavoured to gaze, so much the more he was dazzled, 
and compelled to avert his eyes ; part of the holy and 
adorable cross enclosed in crystal ; where the eye, piercing 
through the substance of the stone, might discern the colour 
and size of the wood ; a small portion of the crown of thorns, 
enclosed in a similar manner, which, in derision of his 
government, the madness of the soldiers placed on Christ's 
sacred head. The king, delighted with such great and 
exquisite presents, made an equal return of good offices ; 
and gratified the soul of the longing suitor by a union with 
his sister. With some of these presents he enriched 
succeeding kings : but to Malmesbury he gave part of the 
cross and crown ; by the support of which, I believe, that 
place even now flourishes, though it has suffered so many 
shipwrecks of its liberty, so many attacks of its enemies. | 
In this place he ordered Elwin and Ethelwin, the sons of his 
uncle Ethelward, whom he had lost in the battle against 
Anlaf, to be honourably buried, expressing his design of 
resting here himself : of which battle it is now proper time 
to give the account of that poet, from whom I have taken all 
these transactions. 

His subjects governing with justest sway, 
Tyrants o'eraw'd, twelve years had pass'd away, 

• The legend of St. Longinus makes the centurion mentioned in the 
Gospel, the person who pierced the side of our Lord ; with many other 
fabulous additions. See Jac. a Voragine, Legenda Sanctorum. 

+ The Theban legion refusing, in the Diocletian persecution, to bring the 
Christians to execution, were ordered to be decimated ; and on their 
persisting in the same resolution at the instigation of Ma\irice, the com- 
mander of the legion, they were, together with him, put to cruel deaths. 
V. Acta Sanctor. 22 Sept. 

X He has, apparently, the oppressions of bishop Roger constantly before 


When Europe's noxious pestilence stalk'd forth, 
And poured the barbarous legions from the north. 
The pirate Anlaf now the briny surge 
Forsakes, while deeds of desperation urge. 
Her king consenting, Scotia's land receives 
The frantic madman, and his host of thieves : 
Now flush 'd with insolence they shout and boast. 
And drive the harmless natives from the coast. 
Thus, while the king, secure in youthful pride, 
Bade the soft hours in gentle pleasures glide, 
Though erst he stemmed the battle's furious tide, 
With ceaseless plunder sped the daring horde, 
And wasted districts with their fire and sword. 
The verdant crops lay withering on the fields 
The glebe no promise to the rustic yields. 
Immense the numbers of barbarian force, 
Countless the squadrons both of foot and horse. 
At length fame's rueful moan alarmed the king, 
And bade him shun this ignominious sting. 
That arms like his to ruffian bands should bend : 
'Tis done : delays and hesitations end. 
High in the air the threatening banners fly, 
And call his eager troops to victory. 
His hardy force, a hundred thousand strong 
Whom standards hasten to the fight along. 
The martial clamour scares the plund'ring band, 
And drives them bootless tow'rds their native land. 
The vulgar mass a dreadful carnage share, 
And shed contagion on the ambient air, 
While Anlaf, only, out of all the crew 
Escapes the meed of death, so justly due, 
Reserved by fortune's favor, once again 
When Athelstan was dead, to claim our strain. 

This place seems to require that I should relate the death 
of Elfred in the words of the king, for which I before 
pledged the faith of my narrative. For as he had commanded 
the bodies of his relations to be conveyed to Malmesbury, 
and interred at the head of the sepulchre of St. Aldhelm ; 
he honoured the place afterwards to such a degree, that he 
esteemed none more desirable or more holy. Bestowing 
many large estates upon it, he confirmed them by charters, 
in one of which, after the donation, he adds : " Be it known 
to the sages of our kingdom, that I have not unjustly seized 
the lands aforesaid, or dedicated plunder to God ; but that I 
have received them, as the English nobility, and even John, 
the pope of the church of Rome himself, have judged 

138 WILLIAM OP MALMESBURT. [b. u. c. 6. 

fitting on the death of Elfred. He was the jealous rival both 
of my happiness and life, and consented to the wickedness of 
my enemies, who, on my father's decease, had not God in his 
mercy delivered me, wished to put out my eyes in the city 
of Winchester : wherefore, on the discovery of their 
infernal contrivances, he was sent to the church of Rome to 
defend himself by oath before pope John. This he did at 
the altar of St. Peter ; but at the very instant he had sworn, 
he fell down before it, and was carried by his servants to the 
English School, where he died the third night after. The 
pope immediately sent to consult with us, whether his body 
should be placed among other Christians. On receiving this 
account the nobility of our kingdom, with the whole body of 
his relations, humbly entreated that we would grant our 
permission for his remains to be buried with other 
Christians. Consenting, therefore, to their urgent request, 
we sent back our compliance to Rome, and with the pope's 
permission he was buried, though unworthy, with other 
Christians. In consequence all his property of every 
description was adjudged to be mine. Moreover, we have 
noted this in writing, that, so long as Christianity reigns, it 
may never be abrogated, whence the aforesaid land, which I 
have given to God and St. Peter, Avas granted me ; nor do I 
know any thing more just, than that I should bestow this 
gift on God and St. Peter, who caused my rival to fall in 
the sight of all persons, and conferred on me a prosperous 

In these words of the king, we may equally venerate his 
wisdom, and his piety in sacred matters : his wisdom, that 
so young a man should perceive that a sacrifice obtained by 
rapine could not be acceptable to God : his piety in so grate- 
fully making a return to God, out of a benefit conferred on 
him by divine vengeance. Moreover, it may be necessary to 
observe, that at that time the church of St. Peter was the 
chief of the monastery, which now is deemed second only : 
the church of St. Mary, which the monks at present fre- 
quent, was built afterwards in the time of king Edgar, under 
abbat Elfric. Thus far relating to the king I have written 
from authentic testimony : that which follows I have learned 
more from old ballads, popular through succeeding times, 
than from books written expressly for the information of 


posterity. I have subjoined them, not to defend their 
veracity, but to put my reader in possession of all I know. 
First, then, to the relation of his birth. 

There was in a certain village, a shepherd's daughter, a 
girl of exquisite beauty, who gained through the elegance of 
her person what her birth could never have bestowed. In a 
vision she beheld a prodigy : the moon shone from her 
womb, and all England was illuminated by the light. When 
she sportively related this to her companions in the morning, 
it was not so lightly received, but immediately reached the 
ears of the woman who had nursed the sons of the king. 
Deliberating on this matter, she took her home and adopted 
her as a daughter, bringing up this young maiden with cost- 
lier attire, more delicate food, and more elegant demeanour. 
Soon after, Edward, the sou of king Alfred, travelling 
through the village, stopped at the house which had been the 
scene of his infantine education. Indeed, he thought it would 
be a blemish on his reputation to omit paying his salutations 
to his nurse. He became deeply enamoured of the young 
woman from the first moment he saw her, and passed the 
night with her. In consequence of this single intercourse, 
she brought forth her son Athelstan, and so realized her 
dream. For at the expiration of his childish years, as he 
approached manhood, he gave proof by many actions what 
just expectations of noble qualities might be entertained of 
him. King Edward, therefore, died, and was shortly 
followed by his legitimate son Ethelward. All hopes now 
centred in Athelstan : Elfred alone, a man of uncommon 
insolence, disdaining to be governed by a sovereign whom he 
had not voluntarily chosen, secretly opposed with his party to 
the very utmost. But he being detected and punished, as 
the king has before related, there were some who even 
accused Edwin, the king's brother, of treachery. Base and 
dreadful crime was it thus to embroil fraternal affection by 
sinister constructions. Edwin, though imploring, both 
personally and by messengers, the confidence of his brother, 
and though invalidating the accusation by an oath, was 
nevertheless driven into exile. So far, indeed, did tlie dark 
suggestions of some persons prevail on a mind distracted 
with various cares, that, forgetful of a brother's love, he ex- 
pelled the youth, an object of pity even to strangers. The 

140 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. n. c. 9. 

mode adopted too was cruel in the extreme : he was com- 
pelled to go on board a vessel, with a single attendant, with- 
out a rower, without even an oar, and the bark crazy with 
age. Fortune laboured for a long time to restore the innocent 
youth to land, but when at length he was far out at sea, and 
sails could not endure the violence of the wind, the young 
man, delicate, and weary of life under such circumstances, 
put an end to his existence by a voluntary plunge into the 
waters. The attendant wisely determining to prolong his 
life, sometimes by shunning the hostile waves, and some- 
times by urging the boat forward with his feet, brought his 
master's body to land, in the narrow sea which flows between 
Wissant and Dover. Athelstan, when liis anger cooled, and 
his mind became calm, shuddered at the deed, and submitting 
to a seven years' penance, inflicted severe vengeance on 
the accuser of his brother : he was the king's cup-bearer, 
and on this account had opportunity of enforcing his insinu- 
ations. It so happened on a festive day, as he was serving 
wine, that slipping with one foot in the midst of the chamber, 
he recovered himself with the other. On this occasion, he 
made use of an expression which proved his destruction : 
" Thus brother," said he, " assists brother." The king on 
hearing this, ordered the faithless wretch to be put to death, 
loudly reproaching him with the loss of that assistance he 
might have had from his brother, were he alive, and bewail- 
ing his death. 

The circumstances of Edwin's death, though extremely 
probable, I the less venture to affirm for truth, on account of 
the extraordinary affection he manifested towards the rest of 
his brothers ; for, as his father had left them very young, he 
cherished them whilst children with much kindness, and, 
when grown up, made them partakers of his kingdom ; it is 
before related to what dignity he exalted such of his sisters 
as his father had left unmarried and unprovided for. Com- 
pleting his earthly course, and that a short one, Athelstan 
died at Gloucester. His noble remains were conveyed to 
Malmesbury and buried under the altar. Many gifts, both 
in gold and silver, as weU as relics of saints purchased 
abroad in Brittany, were carried before the body : for, 
in such things, admonished, as they say, in a dream, he 
expended the treasures which his father had long since 

A.D. 940-944.] KING EDMUND. 141 

amassed, and had left untouched. His years, though few, 
were full of glory. 

CHAP. vn. 

Of kings Edmund, Edred, and Edwy. [a.d. 940 — 955.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 940, Edmund the bro- 
ther of Athelstan, a youth of about eighteen, received and 
held the government for six years and a half. In his time 
the Northumbrians, meditating a renewal of hostilities, vio- 
lated the treaty which they had made with Athelstan, and 
created Anlaf, whom they had recalled from Ireland, their 
king. Edmund, who thought it disgraceful not to complete 
his brother's victorious course, led his troops against the de- 
linquents ; who presently retreating, he subjugated all the 
cities on this side the river Humber. Anlaf, with a certain 
prince, Reginald,* the son of that Gurmund of whom we have 
spoken in the history of Alfred, sounding the disposition of 
the king, offered to surrender himself, proffering his conver- 
sion to Christianity as a pledge of his fidelity, and receiving 
baptism. His savage nature, however, did not let liim re- 
main long in this resolution, for he violated his oath, and 
irritated his lord. In consequence of which, the following 
year he suffered for his crimes, being doomed to perpetual 
exile. The province wliich is called Cumberland Edmund 
assigned to Malcolm, king of the Scots, under fealty of an 

Among the many donations wliich the king conferred on 
different churches, he exalted that of Glastonbury, through 
his singular affection towards it, Avith great estates and ho- 
nours ; and granted it a charter in these words : 

" Li the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I Edmund, king 
of the Angles, and governor and ruler of the other surround- 
ing nations, with the advice and consent of my nobility, for 
the hope of eternal retribution, and remission of my trans- 
gressions, do grant to the church of the holy mother of God, 
Mary of Glastonbury, and the venerable jDunstan, whom I 
have there constituted abbat, the franchise and jurisdiction, 

* Reginald was not the son of Gurmund, but of Guthferth, who was 
driven out of Northumberland by Athelsta/n. See Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 
927-- .944. 

142 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ii. c. 7. 

rights, customs, and all the forfeitures of all their posses- 
sions ; that is to say,* burhgeritha, and hundred-setena. 
athas and ordelas, and infangenetheofas, hamsocne, and fri- 
debrice, and forestel and toll, and team, tlu'oughout my king- 
dom, and their lands shall be free to them, and released from 
all exactions, as my own are. But more especially shall the 
town of Glastonbury, in which is situated that most ancient 
church of the holy mother of God, together with its bounds, 
be more free than other places. The abbat of this place, 
alone, shall have power, as well in causes known as unknown ; 
in small and in great ; and even in those which are above, 
and under the earth ; on dry land, and in the water ; in 
woods and in plains ; and he shall have the same authority 
of punishing or remitting the crimes of delinquents perpetra- 
ted within it, as my court has ; in the same manner as my 
predecessors have granted and confirmed by charter ; to wit, 
Edward my father, and Elfred his father, and Kentwin, Ina, 
and Cuthred, and many others, who more peculiarly honoured 
and esteemed that noble place. And that any one, either 
bishop, or duke,f or prince, or any of their servants, should 
dai-e to enter it for the purpose of holding courts, or distrain- 
ing, or doing any thing contrary to the will of the ser- 
vants of God there, I inhibit under God's curse. Whosoever 
therefore shall benevolently augment my donation, may his 
life be prosperous in this present world ; long may he enjoy 
his happiness : but whosoever shall presume to invade it 
through his own rashness, let him know for certain that he 
shall be compelled with fear and trembling to give account 
before the tribunal of a rigorous judge, unless he shall first 
atone for his offence by proper satisfaction." 

The aforesaid donation was granted in the year of our 

* The exact meaning of some of these terms is not easUy attainable, but 
they are generally understood to imply — jurisdiction over the burgh, or 
town — hundred court — oaths and ordeals — thieves taken within the juris- 
diction — housebreakers — breach of peace — offences committed on the high- 
ways, or forestalling — tolls — warranty, or a right of reclaiming villains who 
had absconded. The charter therefore conveys a right to hold various 
courts, and consequently to try, and receive all mulcts arising from the 
several offences enumerated, which being generally redeemable by fine, 
produced considerable sums ; besides, what was perhaps of more import- 
ance, exemption from the vexations of the king's officers. 

t Duke is often used in charters, &c. as synonymous with earl. 

A.D. 946] EDMUND KILLED. 143 

Lord Jesus Christ's incarnation 944, in the first of the indic- 
tion, and was written in letters of gold in the book of the 
Gospels, which he presented to the same church elegantly- 
adorned. Such great and prosperous successeSy however, 
were obscured by a melancholy death. A certain robber 
named Leofa, whom he had banished for his crimes, returning 
after six years' absence totally unexpected, was sitting, on 
the feast of St. Augustine, the apostle of the English, and 
first archbishop of Canterbury, among the royal guests at 
Puckle-church,* for on this day the English were wont to re- 
gale in commemoration of their first preacher ; by chance 
too, he was placed near a nobleman whom the king had con- 
descended to make his guest. This, while the others were 
eagerly carousing, was perceived by the king alone ; when, 
hurried with indignation and impelled by fate, he leaped 
from the table, caught the robber by the hair, and dragged 
him to the floor ; but he secretly drawing a dagger from its 
sheath plunged it with all his force into the breast of the king 
as he lay upon him. Dying of the wound, he gave rise over 
the whole kingdom to many fictions concerning his decease. 
The robber was shortly torn limb from limb by the attend- 
ants who rushed in, though he wounded some of them ere 
they could accomplish their purpose. St. Dunstan, at that 
time abbat of Glastonbury, had foreseen his ignoble end, 
being fully persuaded of it from the gesticulations and inso- 
lent mockery of a devil dancing before him. Wherefore, 
hastening to court at full speed, he received intelligence of 
the transaction on the road. By common consent then it 
was determined, that his body should be brought to Glaston- 
bury and there magnificently buried in the northern part of 
the tower. That such had been his intention, through liis 
singular regard for the abbat, was evident from particular 
circumstances. The village also where he was murdered 
was made an offering for the dead, that the spot which had 
witnessed his fall might ever after minister aid to his soul. 

In his fourth year, that is, in the year of our Lord 944, 
William, the son of Rollo, duke of Normandy, was treacher- 
ously killed in France, which old writers relate as having 
been done with some degree of justice. Rinulph, one of the 
Norman nobility, owing William a grudge from some un- 
* In Gloucestershire. 

144 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUEY. [b. ii. c 7. 

known cause, harassed him with perpetual aggressions. His 
son, Anschetil, who served under the earl, to gratify his lord 
durst offer violence to nature for taking his father in bat- 
tle : he delivered him into the power of the earl, relying on 
the most solemn oath, that he should suffer nothing beyond 
imprisonment. As wickedness, however, constantly dis- 
covers pretences for crime, the earl, shortly after feigning an 
excuse, sends Anschetil to Pavia bearing a letter to the 
duke of Italy, the purport of which was his own destruction. 
Completing his journey, he was received, on his entrance 
into the city, in the most respectful manner ; and delivering 
the letter, the duke, astonished at the treachery, shuddered, 
that a warrior of such singular address should be ordered to 
be despatched. But as he would not oppose the request of 
so renowned a nobleman, he laid an ambush of a thousand 
horsemen, as it is said, for Anschetil when he left the city. 
For a long time, with his companions whom he had selected 
out of all Normandy, he resisted their attack ; but at last he 
fell nobly, compensating his own death by slaying many of 
the enemy. The only survivor on either side was Balso, a 
Norman, a man of small size, but of incredible courage ; al- 
though some say that he was ironically called short. Tliis 
man, I say, alone hovered round the city, and by his single 
sword terrified the townspeople as long as he thought pro- 
per. No person will deem this incredible, who considers 
what efforts the desperation of a courageous man will pro- 
duce, and how little military valour the people of that region 
possess. Returning thence to his own country, he laid his 
complaint of the perfidy of his lord before the king of France. 
Fame reported too, that Rinulph, in addition to his chains, 
had had his eyes put out. In consequence the earl being 
cited to his trial at Paris, was met, under the pretence of a 
conference, as they assert, and killed by Balso ; thus making 
atonement for his own perfidy, and satisfying the rage of his 
antagonist in the midst of the river Seine. His death was 
the source of long discord between the French and Normans, 
till by the exertions of Richard his son it had a termination 
worthy such a personage. A truer history* indeed relates, 
that being at enmity with Ernulph, earl of Flanders, he had 
possessedhimself 01 one of his castles, and that being invited 
* See Will. Gemeticensis, lib. iii. c. 11. 

A.D. 946— 955.] EDRED EDWY. 145 

out by him to a conference, on a pretended design of making 
a truce, he was killed by Balso, as thej were conversing in 
a ship : that a key was found at his girdle, Avhich being ap- 
plied to the lock of his private cabinet, discovered certain 
monastic habiliments;* for he ever designed, even amid his 
warlike pursuits, one day to become a monk at Jumieges ; 
which place, deserted from the time of Hasten, he cleared 
of the overspreading thorns, and with princely magnificence 
exalted to its present state. 

In the year of our Lord 946, Edred, Edward's third son, 
assuming the government, reigned nine years and a half. 
He gave proof that he had not degenerated in greatness of 
soul from his father and his brothers ; for he nearly extermi- 
nated the Northumbrians and the Scots, laying waste the 
whole province with sword and famine, because, having with 
little difficulty compelled them to swear fidelity to him, they 
broke their oath, and made Iricius their king. He for a long 
time kept Wulstan, archbishop of York, Avho, it was said, 
connived at the revolt of his countrymen, in chains, but 
afterwards, out of respect to his ecclesiastical dignity, re- 
leased and pardoned him. In the meantime, the king him- 
self, prostrate at the feet of the saints, devoted his life to 
God and to Dunstan, by whose admonition he endured with 
patience his frequent bodily pains,! prolonged his prayers, 
and made his palace altogetlier the school of virtue. He 
died accompanied with the utmost grief of men, but joy of 
angels ; for Dunstan, learning by a messenger that he was 
sick, while urging his horse in order to see him, heard a 
voice thundering over his head, " Now king Edred sleeps in 
the Lord." He lies buried in the cathedral at Winchester. 

In the year of our Lord 955, Edwy, son of Edmund, the 
brother of Athelstan the former king, taking possession of 
the kingdom, retained it four years : a wanton youth, who 
abused the beauty of his person in illicit intercourse. Fi- 
nally, taking a woman nearly related to him as his wife, 
he doated on her beauty, and despised the advice of his coun- 

* These were a woollen shirt and cowl. Will. Gemet. lib. iii. c. 12. 

t Edred is described by Bridferth as being constantly oppressed with 
sickness ; and of so weak a digestion, as to be unable to swallow more than 
the juices of the food he had masticated, to the great annoyance of hw 
guests. Vita Dunstani, Act. Sanct. 1 9 Maii. 


146 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ir c. 7. 

sellers. On the verj day he had been consecrated king, in 
full assembly of the nobility, when deliberating on affairs of 
importance and essential to the state, he burst suddenly from 
amongst them, darted wantonly into his chamber, and rioted 
in the embraces of the harlot. All were indignant of the 
shameless deed, and murmured among themselves. Dunstan 
alone, with that firmness which his name implies,* regardless 
of the royal indignation, violently dragged the lascivious boy 
from the chamber, and on the archbishop's compelling him 
to repudiate the strumpet, f made him his enemy for ever. 
Soon after, upheld by most contemptible supporters, he 
afflicted with undeserved calamities all the members of the 
monastic order throughout England, — who were first de- 
spoiled of their property, and then driven into exile. He 
drove Dunstan himself, the chief of monks, into Flanders. 
At that time the face of monachism was sad and pitiable. 
Even the monastery of Malmesbury, which had been inha- 
bited by monks for more than two hundred and seventy 
years, he made a sty for secular canons. But thou, O 
Lord Jesus, our creator and redeemer, gracious disposer, art 
abundantly able to remedy our defects by means of those ir- 
regular and vagabond men. Thou didst bring to light thy 
treasure, hidden for so many years — I mean the body of St. 
Aldhelm, which they took up and placed in a shrine. The 
royal generosity increased the fame of the canons ; for 
the king bestowed on the saint an estate, very convenient 
both from its size and vicinity. But my recollection shud- 
ders even at this time, to think how cruel he was to other 
monasteries, equally on account of the giddiness of youth, 
and the pernicious counsel of his concubine, who was per- 
petually poisoning his uninformed mind. But let his soul, 
long since placed in rest by the interposition of Dunstan, f 

* A quibble on his name, as compounded of " hill " and '* stone." 
t Much variation prevails among the earliest Avriters concerning Elfgiva. 
Bridferth (Act. Sanct. 19 Mali) says, there were two women, mother and 
daughter, familiar with Edwy. A contemporary of Bridferth (MS. Cott. 
Nero, E. I.) asserts, that he was married, but fell in love with, and carried 
off, another woman. A MS. Saxon Chron. (Cott. Tib. b. iv,) says, they 
were separated, as being of kin. Osberne, Edmer, and Malmesbury, in his 
Life of Dunstan (MS.), all repeat the story of the two women. 

X Dunstan, learning that he was dead, and that the devils were about to 
carry off his soul in triumph by his prayers obtained his release. A curious 

A.D. 959— 975.] OF KING EDGAJ?. 147 

pardon my grief : grief, I say, compels me to condemn him, 
" because private advantage is not to be preferred to public 
loss, but rather pubhc loss should outweigh private advan- 
tage." He paid the penalty of his rash attempt even in this 
life, being despoiled of the greatest part of his kingdom ;* 
shocked with which calamity, he died, and was buried in the 
new minster at Winchester. 

CHAP. vni. 

Of king Edgar, son of king Edmund, [a.d. 959 — 975.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 959, Edgar, the honour 
and delight of the English, the son of Edmund, the brother 
of Edwy, a youth of sixteen years old, assuming the govern- 
ment, held it for about a similar period. The transactions of 
his reign are celebrated with peculiar splendour even in our 
times. The Divine love, which he sedulously procured by 
his devotion and energy of counsel, shone propitious on his 
years. It is commonly reported, that at his birth Dunstan 
heard an angelic voice, saying, " Peace to England so long 
as this child shall reign, and our Dunstan survives." The 
succession of events was in unison with the heavenly oracle ; 
so much while he lived did ecclesiastical glory flourish, and 
martial clamour decay. Scarcely does a year elapse in the 
chronicles, in which he did not perform something great and 
advantageous to his country ; in which he did not build 
some new monastery. He experienced no internal treachery, 
no foreign attack. Kinad, king of the Scots, Malcolm, of the 
Cambrians, that prince of pirates, Maccus, all the Welsh 
kings, whose names were Dufnal, Giferth, Huval, Jacob, 
Judethil, being summoned to his court, were bound to him 
by one, and that a lasting oath ; so that meeting him at 
Chester, he exhibited them on the river Dee in triumphal 
ceremony. For putting them all on board the same vessels 
he compelled them to row him as he sat at the prow : thus 
displaying his regal magnificence, who held so many kings 
in subjection. Indeed, he is reported to have said, that 
henceforward his successors might truly boast of being kings 

colloquy between the abbat and the devils on the subject, may be found ia 
Osberne's Life of Dunstan, Anglia Sacra, ii. 108. 

* The Mercians had revolted, and chosen Edgrj king. 

148 AVILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 8. 

of England, since they would enjoy so singular an honour. 
Hence his fame being noised abroad, foreigners, Saxons, 
Flemings, and even Danes, frequently sailed hither, and 
were on terms of intimacy with Edgar, though their arrival 
was highly prejudicial to the natives : for from the Saxons 
they learned an untameable ferocity of mind ; from the Flem- 
ings an unmanly delicacy of body ; and from the Danes 
drunkenness ; though they were before free from such pro- 
pensities, and disposed to observe their own customs with 
native simplicity rather than admire those of others. For 
this history justly and deservedly blames him ; for the other 
imputations which I shall mention hereafter have rather been 
cast on him by ballads. 

At this time the light of holy men was so resplendent in Eng- 
land, that you would believe the very stars from heaven smiled 
upon it. Among these was Dunstan, whom I have mentioned 
so frequently, first, abbat of Glastonbury ; next, bishop of 
Worcester ; and lastly, archbishop of Canterbury : of great 
power in earthly matters, in high favour with God ; in the 
one representing Martha, in the other Mary. Next to king 
Alfred, he was the most extraordinary patron of the liberal 
arts throughout the whole island ; the munificent restorer of 
monasteries ; terrilde were his denunciations against trans- 
gressing kings and princes ; kind was his support of the 
middling and poorer classes. Indeed, so extremely anxious 
was he to preserve peace ever in trivial matters, that, as his 
countrymen used to assemble in taverns, and when a little 
elevated quarrel as to the proportions of their liquor, he or- 
dered gold or silver pegs to be fastened in the pots, that 
whilst every man knew his just measure, shame should com- 
pel each neither to take more himself, nor oblige others to 
drink beyond their proportional share. Osberne,* precentor 
of Canterbury, second to none of these times in composition, 
and indisputably the best skilled of all in music, who wrote 
his life with Roman elegance, forbids me to relate farther 
praiseworthy anecdotes of him. Besides, in addition to this, 
if the divine grace shall accompany my design, I intend after 
the succession of the kings at least to particularize the names 
of all the bishops of each province in England, and to offer 
tchem to the knowledge of my countrymen, if I shall be able 

* Osbcrne's Life of St. Dunstan is published in the Anglia Sacra, vol. ii. 

A.D. 973.] KING Edgar's reforms. 149 

to coin anything "wortli notice out of tlie mintage of anti- 
quity. How powerful indeed the sanctity and virtue of 
Dunstan's disciples were, is sufficiently evidenced by Ethel- 
wold, made abbat of Abingdon from a monk of Glastonbury, 
and afterwards bishop of Winchester, who built so many and 
such great monasteries, as to make it appear hardly credible 
how the bishop of one see should be able to effect what the 
king of England himself could scarcely undertake. I am 
deceived, and err through hasty opinion, if what I assert be 
not evident. How great are the monasteries of Ely, Peter- 
borough, and Thorney, which he raised from the foundations, 
and completed by his industry ; which though repeatedly re- 
duced by the wickedness of plunderers, are yet sufficient for 
their inhabitants. His life was composed in a decent style 
by Wulstan,* precentor of Winchester, who had been his 
attendant and pupil : he wrote also another very useful work, 
" On the Harmony of Sounds," a proof that he was a learned 
Englishman, a man of pious life and correct eloquence. At 
that time too Oswald, nephew of Odo, who had been arch- 
bishop before Dunstan, from a monk of Flory becoming bi- 
shop of Worcester and archbishop of York, claimed equal 
honours with the others. Treading the same paths, he ex- 
tended the monastic profession by his authority, and built a 
monastery at Ramsey in a marshy situation. He filled the 
cathedral of Worcester with monks, the canons not being 
di'iven out by force, but circumvented by pious fraud. f 
Bishop Ethelwold, by the royal command, had before ex- 
pelled the canons from Winchester, who, upon the king's 
giving them an option either to live according to rule, or de- 
part the place, gave the preference to an easy life, and were 
at that time without fixed habitations wandering over the 
whole island. In this manner these three persons, illumina- 
ting England, as it were, with a triple light, chased away the 
thick darkness of error. In consequence, Edgar advanced 
the monastery of Glastonbury, wliich he ever loved beyond 
all others, with great possessions, and was anxiously vigilant 

* Wulstan's Life of Ethelwold is printed by Mabillon, and in the Acta 
Sanctorum, Antwerp. Aug. tome i. 

+ He erected another church at Worcester, in which he placed monks. 
The canons finding the people desert them in order to obtain the favour of 
the new comers, by degrees took the monastic habit. See Malmesbury de 
Gest. Pontif. lib. iii. 

150 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. [b. ir. c. 8, 

in all things pertaining either to the beauty or convenience 
of the church, whether internally or externally. It may be 
proper here to subjoin to our narrative the charter he 
granted to the said church, as I have read it in their ancient 

* Some MSS. omit from " Edgar of glorious memory, &c." to ** spoken 
of another. The monastic order," &c. in page 155, and insert the charter 
at length, together with what follows it, thus : 

'' In the name of om* Lord Jesus Christ : although the decrees of pon- 
tiffs and the decisions of priests are fixed by irrevocable bonds, like the 
foundations of the mountains, yet, nevertheless, through the storms and 
tempests of secular matters, and the corruptions of reprobate men, the in- 
stitutions of the holy church of God are often convulsed and broken. 
Wherefore I perceive that it will be advantageous to posterity that I should 
confirm by writing what has been determined by wholesome counsel and 
common consent. In consequence, it seems proper that the church of the 
most blessed mother of God, the eternal virgin Mary, of Glastonbury, in- 
asmuch as it has always possessed the chief dignity in my kingdom, should 
be honoured by us with some especial and unusual privilege. Dunstan, 
therefore, and Oswald, archbishops of Canterbury and York, exhorting 
thereto, and Brithelm, bishop of Wells, and other bishops, abbats, and 
chiefs assenting and approving, I, Edgar, by the grace of God, king of the 
English, and ruler and governor of the adjacent nations, in the name of the 
blessed Trinity, for the soul of my father who reposes there, and of my pre- 
decessors, do by this present privilege decree, appoint, and establish, that 
the aforesaid monastery and all its possessions shall remain free and exone- 
rated from all payments to the Exchequer now and for ever : they shall have 
soc and sac, on stronde and on wude, on felde, on grithbrice, on burgbrice, 
hundredsetena, and mortheras, athas, and ordelas, ealle hordas bufan eor- 
than, and beneothan : infangenetheof, utfangenetheof, flemenefertha, ham- 
socne, friderbrice, foresteal, toll and team, just as free and peaceably as I 
have in my kingdom : let the same liberty and power also as I have in my 
own court, as well in forgiving as in punishing, and in every other matter, 
be possessed by the abbat and monks of the aforesaid monastery within 
their court. And should the abbat, or any monk of that place, upon his 
journey, meet a thief going to the gallows, or to any other punishment of 
death, they shall have power of rescuing him from the impending danger 
throughout my kingdom. Moreover, I confirm and establish what has 
hitherto been scrupulously observed by all my predecessors, that the bishop 
of Wells and his ministers shall have no power whatever over this monas- 
tery, or its parish-churches ; that is to say, Street, Miricling [Merlinge] , 
Budecal, Shapwick, Sowy, or their chapels, or even over those contained 
in the islands, that is to say, Beokery, otherwise called Little Ireland, God- 
ney, Martensia, Patheneberga, Adredseia, and Ferramere, except only 
when summoned by the abbat for dedications or ordinations, nor shall they 
cite their priests to their synods or chapters, or to any of their courts, nor 
shall they suspend them from their holy office, or presume to exercise any 
right over them whatever. The abbat shall cause any bishop of the same 
province he pleases to ordain his monks, and the clerks of the aforesaid 

A. o. 973.1 Edgar's CHARTER, 151 

"Edgar of glorious memory, king of the Angles, son 
of king Edmund, whose inclinations were ever vigilantly 
bent on divine matters, often coming to the monastery of the 

churches, according to the ancient custom of the church of Glastonbury, 
and the apostolical authority of archbishop Dxmstan, and of all the bishops 
of my kingdom ; but the dedications of the churches we consign to the 
bishop of Wells, if he be required by the abbat. At Easter let him re- 
ceive the chrism of sanctification, and the oil from the bishop of Wells, 
according to custom, and distribute them to his before mentioned churches. 
This too I command above all other things : on the curse of God, and bv 
my authority, saving the right of the holy Roman church, and that of 
Canterbury, I inhibit all persons, of whatever dignity, be they king, or 
bishop, or earl, or prince, or any of my dependants, from daring to enter 
the bounds of Glastonbury, or of the above named parishes, for the purpose 
of searching, seizing, holding courts, or doing any thing to the prejudice of 
the servants of God there residing. The abbat and convent shall alone 
have power in causes known and unknown, in small and in great, and in 
every thing as we have before related. And whosoever, upon any occasion, 
whatever be his dignity, whatever his order, whatever his profession, shall 
attempt to pervert or nullify the pre-eminency of this^ny privilege by sacri- 
legious boldness, let him be aware that he must Avithout a doubt give ac- 
count thereof, with fear and trembling, before a severe Judge, unless he 
first endeavour to make reparation by proper satisfaction." The charter 
of this privilege the aforesaid king Edgar confirmed by his o^vn signature at 
London, in the twelfth year of his reign, with the common consent of his 
nobles ; and in the same year, which was the 965th of our Lord's incarna- 
tion, and the 14th of the indiction, pope John, in a general assembly, au- 
thorized it at Rome, and made all the men of chief dignity who presided 
at that council confirm it ; and also, from motives of paternal regard, sent 
a letter to the following effect to earl Alfric, who was then grievously per- 
secuting the aforesaid church : — 

" Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to Alfric the distinguished 
earl, and our dearly beloved son in the Spirit, perpetual health and apos- 
tolical benediction. We have learned, from the report of certain faithful 
people, that you commit many enormities against the church of the holy 
mother of God, called Mary of Glastonbmy, which is acknowledged to be- 
long solely to, and to be under the protection of, the Roman Pontiff, from 
the earliest times ; and that you have seized Avith boundless rapacity upon 
its estates and possessions, and even the churches of Brent and Pilton, 
which, by the gift of king Ina, it legally possesses, together with other 
churches, that is to say, SoAAy, Martine, Budecal, ShapA\dck, and that on 
account of your near residence you are a continual enemy to its interests. 
It Avould, however, have been becoming, from your living so near, that by 
your assistance the holy church of God might have been much benefited 
and enriched ; but, horrible to say ! it is impoA^erished by your hostility, 
and injured by your deeds of oppression ; and since Ave doubt not that we, 
though uriAvorthily, have received from St. Peter the apostle the care of all 
the churches, and solicitude for all things ; we therefore admonish your 
affection, to abstain from plvmdering it, for the love of the apostles Peter 

152 WILLIAM OF aiALMESBURY. ' [b. rr. c. 8. 

holj mother of God at Glastonbury, and studying to honour 
tills place with dignity superior to others, hath by the com- 
mon consent of the bishops, abbats, and nobility, conferred 
on it many and very splendid privileges ; — the first of which 
is, that no person, unless a monk of that place, shall there be 
abbat, either in name or in office, nor any other, except such 
as the common consent of the meeting shall have chosen ac- 
cording to the tenor of the rule. But should necessity so 
ordain, that an abbat or monk of another monastery be made 
president of this place, then he deems it proper that none 
shall be appointed, but such as the congregation of the mo- 
nastery may elect, to preside over them in the fear of the 
Lord ; nor shall this be done, if any, even the lowest of the 
congregation, can be there found fit for the office. He hath 
appointed too, that the election of their abbat shall rest for 
ever in the monks, reserving only to himself and his heirs 
the power of giving the pastoral staff to the elected brother. 
He hath ordained also, that so often as the abbat or the 
monks of this place shall appoint any of their society to be 
dignified Math holy orders, they shall cause any bishop 
canonically ordained, either in his own cathedral, or in the 
monastery of St. Mary at Glastonbury, to ordain such monks 
and clerks as they deem fit to the church of St. Mary. Pie 
hath granted moreover, that as he himself decides in his own 
dominions, so the abbat or the convent shall decide the causes 
of their entire island,* in all matters ecclesiastical or 
secular, without the contradiction of any one. Nor shall it 
be lawful for any person to enter that island which bore wit- 
ness to his birth, whether he be bishop, duke, or prince, or 
person of whatever order, for the purpose of there doing any 
thing prejudicial to the servants of God : this he forbids al- 
together, in the same manner as his predecessors have sanc- 
tioned and confirmed by their privileges ; that is to say, 
Kentwin, Ina, Ethelard, Cuthred, Alfred, Edward, Athel- 
stan, and Edmund. When, therefore, by the common con- 

and Paul, and respect to us, invading none of its possessions, churches, 
chapels, places, and estates ; but if you persist, remember, that by the au- 
thority of the chief of the apostles, committed unto us, you shall be ex- 
communicated and banished from the company of the faithful, subjected 
to a perpetual curse, and doomed to eternal fire with the traitor Judas." 

* Glastonbury is situated on land which was once an island formed by a 
stagnation of inland waters, in a low situation. 


sent, as has been said, of liis prelates, abbats, and nobility, 
he determined to grant these privileges to the place afore- 
said, he laid his own horn, beautifully formed of ivory and 
adorned with gold, upon the altar of the holy mother of God, 
and by that donation confirmed them to the same holy mo- 
ther of God, and her monks, to be possessed for ever. 
Soon after he caused this horn to be cut in two in his pre- 
sence, that no future abbat might give or sell it to any one, 
commanding part of it to be kept upon the spot for a testi- 
mony of the aforesaid donation. Recollecting, however, how 
great is the temerity of human inconstancy, and on whom it 
is likely to creep, and fearing lest any one hereafter should 
attempt to take away these privileges from this place, or 
eject the monks, he sent this charter of royal liberality to 
the renowned lord, pope John, who had succeeded Octavian 
in the honour of the pontificate, begging him to corroborate 
these grants by an apostolical bull. Kindly receiving the 
legation, the pope, with the assenting voice of the Roman 
council, confirmed what had been already ordained, by wri- 
ting an apostolical injunction, terribly hurling on the viola- 
tors of them, should any be so daring, the vengeance of a 
\^ perpetual curse. This confirmation therefore of the afore- 
said pope, directed to the same place, king Edgar, of worthy 
memory, laid upon the altar of the holy mother of God for a 
perpetual remembrance, commanding it to be carefully kept 
in future for the information of posterity. We have judged 
it proper to insert both these instruments, lest we should be 
supposed to invent such things against those persons who 
seek to enter into the fold of St. Mary, not like shepherds, by 
the door, but like thieves and robbers, some other way. " Be 
it known to all the faithful, that I, John the twelfth, through 
the mercy of God unworthy pope of the holy Roman See, 
am intreated by the humble request of the noble Edgar, king 
of the Angles, and of Dunstan, archbishop of the holy church 
of Canterbury, for the monastery of St. Mary, Glastonbury ; 
which, induced by the love of the heavenly King, they have 
endowed with many great possessions, increasing in it the mo- 
nastic order, and having confirmed it by royal grant, they pray 
me also so to do. Wherefore assenting to their affectionate 
request, I take that place into the bosom of the Roman 
church, and the protection of the holy apostles, and support 

154 "wtlliam: of MALMESBTJRY. [b. n. c. 8. 

and confirm its immunities as long as it shall remain in the 
same conventual order in which it now flourishes. The 
monks shall have power to elect their own superior ; ordina- 
tion, as well of monks as of clerks, shall be at the will of the 
abbat and convent. We ordain, moreover, that no person 
shall have liberty to enter this island, either to hold courts, 
to make inquiry, or to correct ; and should any one attempt 
to oppose this, or to take away, retain, diminish, or harass 
with vexatious boldness, the possessions of the same church, 
he shall become liable to a perpetual curse, by the authority 
of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the holy mother of 
God, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all saints, unless 
he recant. But the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with 
all who maintain the rights of the place aforesaid. Amen. 
And let this our deed remain unshaken. Done in the time of 
Edward, abbat of the said monastery." The aforesaid king 
Edgcir confirmed these things at London, by his solemn char- 
ter, in the twelfth year of his reign ; and in the same year, 
that is, of our Lord 965,* the pope aforesaid allowed them in 
a general synod at Rome, and commanded all members of 
superior, dignity who were present at the said general coun- 
cil, to confirm them likewise. Let the despisers then of so 
terrible a curse consider well what an extensive sentence of 
excommunication hangs over their heads : and indeed to St. 
Peter the apostle, the chief of apostles, Christ gave the office 
either of binding or loosing, as well as the keys of the king- 
dom of heaven. But to all the faithful it must be plain and 
evident, that the head of the Roman church must be the 
vicar of this apostle, and the immediate inheritor of his 
power. Over this church then John of holy memory lauda- 
bly presided in his lifetime, as he lives to this day in glorious 
recollection, promoted thereto by the choice of God and of 
all the people. If then the ordinance of St. Peter the apos- 
tle be binding, consequently that of John the pope must be so 
likewise ; but not even a madman would deny the ordinance 
of Peter the apostle to be binding, consequently no one in his 
sober senses can say that the ordinance of John the pope is 
invalid. Either, therefore, acknowledging the power con- 
ferred by Christ on St. Peter and his successors, they will 
abstain from transgressing against the authority of so dread- 
* The twelfth of Ed<?ar was 971. 


ful an interdict, or else contemning it, they will, with the 
devil and his angels, bring upon themselves the eternal dura- 
tion of the curse aforewritten. In consequence, it is mani- 
fest that no stranger ever seized this monastery for himself, 
who did not, as shall appear, disgracefully lose it again ; and 
that this occurred, not by any concerted plan of the monks, 
but by the judgment of God, for the avenging his holy au- 
thority. Wherefore let no man reading this despise it, nor 
make himself conspicuous by being angry at it ; for should 
he, perhaps he will confess that to be said of himself which 
was designed to be spoken of another. The monastic order, 
for a long time depressed, now joyfully reared its head, and 
hence it came to pass that our monastery also resumed its 
ancient liberties : but this I think will be more suitably rela- 
ted in the words of the king himself. 

"I, Edgar, king of all Albion, and exalted, by the subjec- 
tion of the surrounding kings maritime or insular, by the 
bountiful grace of God, to a degree never enjoyed by any of 
my progenitors, have often, mindful of so high an honour, 
diligently considered what offering I should more especially 
make from my earthly kingdom, to the King of kings. In 
aid of my pious devotion, heavenly love suddenly insinuated 
to my watchful solicitude, that I should rebuild all the holy 
monasteries throughout my kingdom, which, as they were 
outwardly ruinous, with mouldering shingles and worm-eaten 
boards, even to the rafters, so, what was still worse, they had 
become internally neglected, and almost destitute of the ser- 
vice of God ; wherefore, ejecting those illiterate clerks, sub- 
ject to the discipline of no regular order, in many places I 
have appointed pastors of an holier race, that is, of the mon- 
astic order, supplying them with ample means out of my 
royal revenues to repair their churches wherever ruinated. 
One of these pastors, by name Elfric, in all tilings a true 
priest, I have appointed guardian of that most celebrated 
monastery which the Angles call by a twofold name Mald- 
elmes-burgh. To which, for the benefit of my soul, and in 
honour of our Saviour, and the holy mother of God the vir- 
gin Mary, and the apostles Peter and Paul, and the amiable 
prelate Aldhelm, I have restored, with munificent liberality, 
a portion of land : and more especially a piece of ground,* 

* Here is an omission, apparently, which may be supplied from the Ang. 

156 WILLIAM OF IVIALMESBURY. [b. n. c. 8. 

with meadows and woods. This, leased out by the aforesaid 
priest, was unjustly held by the contentious Edelnot; but his 
vain and subtle disputation being heard by my counsel- 
lors, and his false defence being, in my presence, nullified, 
by them, I have restored it to the use of the monastery in 
the year of our Lord 974, in the fourteenth of my reign, and 
the first of my royal consecration." 

And here I deem it not irrelevant to commit to writing 
what was supernaturally shown to the king. He had entered 
a wood abundant in game, and, as usually happens, while his 
associates were dispersed in the thicket for the purpose of hunt- 
ing, he was left alone. Pursuing his course, he came to the out- 
let of the wood, and stopping there waited for his companions. 
Shortly after, seized with an irresistible desire to sleep, he 
alighted from his horse, that the enjoyment of a short re- 
pose might assuage the fatigue of the past day. He lay 
down, therefore, under a wild apple-tree, where the cluster- 
ing branches had formed a shady canopy all around. A 
river, flowing softly beside him, adding to his drowsiness, by its 
gentle murmur soothed him to sleep ; when a bitch, of the 
hunting breed, pregnant, and lying down at his feet, terri- 
fied him in his slumbers. Though the mother was silent, 
yet the whelps within her womb barked in various sonorous 
tones, incited, as it were, by a singular delight in the place 
of their confinement. Astonished at this prodigy, as he 
lifted up his eyes towards the summit of the tree, he saw, 
first one apple, and then another, fall into the river, by the 
collision of which, the watery bubbles being put in commo- 
tion, a voice articulately sounded, "Well is thee." Soon 
after, driven by the rippling wave, a little pitcher appeared 
upon the stream, and after that a larger vessel, overflowing 
with water, for the former was empty : and although by the 
violence of the stream the greater vessel pressed upon the 
lesser that it might discharge its waters into it ; yet it ever 
happened that the pitcher escaped, still empty, and again, as 
in a haughty and insulting manner, attacked the larger. Re- 
turning home, as the Psalmist says, " He thought upon what 
had been done, and sought out his spirit." His mother ad- 
dressed him, however, that she might cheer both his counte- 

Sac. ii. p. 33. " A piece of ground, to wit, of ten farms (or manors), called 
Estotun," &c. G. Malm, de Vita Adhelmi. 

A.p. 973.] Edgar's vision. 157 

nance and his heart ; saying, it should be her care to entreat 
God, who knew how to explain mysteries by the light of his 
inspiration. With this admonition he dispelled his grief and 
dismissed his anxiety, conscious of his mother's sanctity, to 
whom God had vouchsafed many revelations. Her name 
was Elfgiva, a woman intent on good works, and gifted with 
such affection and kindness, that she would even secretly 
discharge the penalties of those culprits whom the sad sen- 
tence of the judges had publicly condemned. That costly 
clothing, which, to many women, is the pander of vice, was 
to her the means of liberality ; as she would give a garment 
of the most beautiful workmanship to the first poor person 
6he saw. Even malice itself, as there was nothing to carp at, 
might praise the beauty of her person and the work of her 
nands. Thoroughly comprehending the presage, she said 
to her son next morning, " The barking of the whelps while 
the mother was sleeping, implies, that after your death, those 
persons vfho are now living and in power, dying also, mis- 
creants yet unborn will bark against the church of God. 
And whereas one apple followed the other, so that the voice, 
' Well is thee,' seemed to proceed from the dashing of the 
second against the first, this implies that from you, who are 
now a tree shading all England, two sons will proceed ; the 
favourers of the second will destroy the first, when the 
chiefs of the different parties will say to each of the boys, 
' Well is thee,' because the dead will reign in heaven, the 
living on earth, Forasmuch as the greater pitcher could not 
fill the smaller, this signifies, that the Northern nations, 
which are more numerous than the English, shall attack 
England after your death; and, although they may recruit 
their deficiencies by perpetual supplies of their countrymen, 
yet they shall never be able to fill this Angle of the world, 
but instead of that, our Angles, when they seem to be com- 
pletely subjugated, shall drive them out, and it shall remain 
under its own and God's governance, even unto the time be- 
fore appointed by Christ. Amen." 

Farther perusal will justify the truth of the presage. The 
manifest sanctity both of parent and child ought here to be 
considered ; that the one should see a mystery when broad 
awake without impediment, and that the other should be able 
to solve the problem by the far-discerning eye of prophecy. 

158 WILLIAM OP MALMESBURY. La ii. c. 8. 

The rigour of Edgar's justice was equal to the sanctity of 
his manners, so that he permitted no person, be his dignity 
what it might, to elude the laws with impunity. In his time 
there was no private thief, no public freebooter, unless such 
as chose to risk the loss of life for their attacks upon the 
property of others.* How, indeed, can it be supposed that 
he would pass over the crimes of men when he designed to ex- 
terminate every beast of prey from his kingdom ; and com- 
manded Judwall, king of the Welsh, to pay him yearly a 
tribute of three hundred wolves? This he performed for 
three years, but omitted in the fourth, declaring that he 
could find no more. 

Although it is reported that he was extremely small both 
in stature and in bulk, yet nature had condescended to en- 
close such strength in that diminutive body, that he would 
voluntarily challenge any person, whom he knew to be bold 
and valiant, to engage with him, and his greatest apprehen- 
sion was, lest they should stand in awe of him in these 
encounters. Moreover, at a certain banquet, where the 
prating of coxcombs generally shows itself very freely, it is 
reported that Kinad, king of the Scots, said in a sportive 
manner, that it seemed extraordinary to him how so many 
provinces should be subject to such a sorry little fellow. This 
was caught up with malignant ear by a certain minstrel, and 
afterwards cast in Edgar's teeth, with the customary raillery 
of such people. But he, concealing the circumstance from 
his friends, sent for Kinad, as if to consult him on some 
secret matter of importance, and leading him aside far 
into the recesses of a wood, he gave him one of two swords, 
which he had brought with him. " Now," said he, " as we are 
alone, I shall have an opportunity of proving your strength ; 
I will now make it appear which ought deservedly to com- 
mand the other ; nor shall you stir a foot till you try the 
matter with me, for it is disgraceful in a king to prate at a 
banquet, and not to be prompt in action." Confused, and 
not daring to utter a word, he fell at the feet of his sovereign 

* Edgar's laws for the punishment of offenders were horribly severe. The 
eyes were put out, nostrils slit, ears torn off, hands and feet cut off, and, 
finally, after the scalp had been torn off, the miserable Avretches M^ere left 
exposed to birds or beasts of prey. V. Acta Sanctor. Jul. 2, in Vita 

A.D.973.3 Edgar's character. 159 

lord, and asked pardon for what was merely a joke; which 
he immediately obtained. But what of this ? Every sum- 
mer, as soon as the festival of Easter was passed, he ordered 
his ships to be collected on each coast ; cruising to the west- 
ern part of the island with the eastern fleet ; and, dismissing 
that, with the western to the north ; and then again with 
the northern squadron towards the east, carefully vigilant 
lest pirates should disturb the country. During the winter 
and spring, travelling through the provinces, he made inquiry 
*nto the decisions of men in power, severely avenging violated 
laws, by the one mode advancing justice, by the other military 
strength ; and in both consulting public utility. There are 
some persons, indeed, who endeavour to dim his exceeding 
glory by saying, that in his earlier years he was cruel to his 
subjects, and libidinous in respect of virgins. Thtlr first 
accusation they exemplify thus. There was, in his time, 
one Athelwold, a nobleman of celebrity and one of his con- 
fidants. The king had commissioned him to visit Elfthrida, 
daughter of Ordgar, duke of Devonshire, (whose charms had 
so fascinated the eyes of some persons that they commended 
her to the king), and to offer her marriage, if her beauty 
were really equal to report. Hastening on his embassy, and 
finding everything consonant to general estimation, he con- 
cealed his mission from her parents and procured the damsel 
for himself. Returning to the king, he told a tale which 
made for his own purpose ; that she was a girl nothing out 
of the common track of beauty, and by no means worthy 
such transcendent dignity. When Edgar's heart was disen- 
gaged from this affair, and employed on other amours, some 
tattlers acquainted liim, how completely Athelwold had 
duped him by his artifices. Paying him in his own coin, that 
is, returning him deceit for deceit, he showed the earl a fair 
countenance, and, as in a sportive manner, appointed a 
day when he would visit his far-famed lady. Terrified, 
almost to death, with this dreadful pleasantry, he hastened 
before to his wife, entreating that she would administer to 
his safety by attiring herself as unbecomingly as possible : 
then first disclosing the intention of such a proceeding. 
But what did not tliis woman dare ? She W"as hardy enough 
to deceive the confidence of her first lover, her first husband ; 
tp^ call up every charm by art, and to omit nothing which 

160 T7ILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [B.rr.c. 8. 

could stimulate the desire of a young and powerful man. 
Nor did events happen contrary to her design. For he fell 
so desperately in love v/ith her the moment he saw her, that, 
dissembling his indignation, he sent for the earl into a wood 
at Warewelle,* called Harewood, under pretence of hunting, 
and ran him through with a javelin : and when the illegiti- 
mate son of the murdered nobleman approached with his ac- 
customed familiarity, and was asked by the king how he 
liked that kind of sport, he is reported to have said, " Well, 
my sovereign liege, I ought not to be displeased with that 
which gives you pleasure." This answer so assuaged the 
mind of the raging monarch, that, for the remainder of his 
life, he held no one in greater estimation than this young 
man ; mitigating the offence of his tyrannical deed against 
the father, by royal solicitude for the son. In expiation of 
this crime, a monastery which was built on the spot by 
Elfthrida is inhabited by a large congregation of nuns. 

To this instance of cruelty, they add a second of lust. 
Hearing of the beauty of a certain virgin, who ^vas dedicated 
to God, he carried her off from a monastery by force, ravish- 
ed her, and repeatedly made her the partner of his bed. 
When this circumstance reached the ears of St. Dunstan, he 
was vehemently reproved by him, and underwent a seven 
years' penance ; though a king, submitting to fast and to 
forego the wearing of his crown for that period."]' They add 
a third, in which both vices may be discovered. King Edgar 
coming to Andover, a town not far from Winchester, ordered 
the daughter of a certain nobleman, the fame of whose beauty 
had been loudly extolled, to be brought to him. The mother 
of the young lady, shocked at the proposed concubinage of 
her daughter, assisted by the darkness of night placed an 
attendant in his bed ; a maiden indeed neither deficient in 
elegance nor in understanding. The night having passed, 
when aurora was hastening into day, the woman attempted to 
rise ; and being asked, " why in such haste ?" she replied, 
" to perform the daily labour of her mistress." Retained 
though with difficulty, on her knees she bewailed her 
wretched situation to the king, and entreated her freedom as 

* Whorwell, Hants. 

t This seems to have been founded on the singular circumstance of his 
not having been crowned till within two years of his death. 

A.D.973.] Edgar's CHARACTER. 161 

the recompence of her connexion with him ; saying, " that 
it became his greatness, not to suffer one who had ministered 
to his royal pleasure, any longer to groan under the com- 
mands of cruel masters." His indignation being excited, 
and sternly smiling, while his mind was wavering between 
pity to the girl, and displeasure to her mistress, he, at last, as 
if treating the whole as a joke, released her from servitude, 
and dismissed his anger. Soon after, he exalted her with 
great honour, to be mistress of her former tyrants, little con- 
sulting how they liked it, loved her entirely, nor left her bed 
till he took Elfthrida, the daughter of Ordgar, to be his legiti- 
mate wife. Elfthrida bore him Edmund, who dying five 
years before his father, lies buried at Romsey, and Ethelred, 
who reigned after him. Besides, of Egelfleda, surnamed 
the fair, the daughter of the most powerful duke, Ordmer, 
he begot Edward ; and St. Editha of Wulfritha, who it is 
certain was not a nun at that time, but being a lay virgin 
had assumed the veil through fear of the king, though she 
was immediately afterwards forced to the royal bed ; on 
which, St. Dunstan, offended that he should desire lustfully a 
person who had been even the semblance of a nun, exerted 
the pontifical power against him. But however these things 
may be, this is certain, that from the sixteenth year of his 
age, when he was appointed king, till the thirtieth, he reigned 
without the insignia of royalty ; for at that time, the princes 
and men of every order assembling generally, he was crowned 
with great pomp at Bath, survived only three years, and was 
buried at Glastonbury. Nor is it to be forgotten, that when 
abbat Ailward opened his tomb in the year of our Lord 
1052, he found the body unconscious of corruption ; which 
instead of inclining him to reverence, served only to in- 
crease his audacity. For when the receptacle which he had 
prepared, seemed too small to admit the body, he profaned 
the royal corpse by cutting it. Whence the blood imme- 
diately gushing out in torrents, shook the hearts of the by- 
standers with horror. In consequence his royal remains 
were placed upon the altar in a shrine, which he had him- 
self given to this church, with the head of St. Apollinaris, 
and the relics of Vincent the martyr ; which purchased, at 
a great price, he had added to the beauty of the house of 
God. The violator of the sacred body presently became dis- 


tracted, and not long after, going out of the church, met his 
death by a broken neck. Nor did the display of royal 
sanctity stop thus ; it proceeded still further, a man, lunatic 
and blind, being there cured. Deservedly then does the re- 
port prevail among the English, that no king, either of his 
own or former times in England, could be justly and fairly 
compared to Edgar : for notliing could be more holy than 
his life, nothing more praiseworthy than liis justice; those 
vices excepted which he afterwards obliterated by abundant 
virtues : a man who rendered his country illustrious through 
his distinguished courage, and the brilliancy of his actions, 
as well as by the increase of the servants of God. After his 
departure, the state and the hopes of the English met with 
a melancholy reverse.* 


Of St. Edward king and martyr the son of Edgar. [a.d. 975 — 978.] 

In the year of our Lord 975, Edward the son of Edgar be- 
gan to reign, and enjoyed the sovereignty for three years 
and a half. Dunstan, in common consent with the other 
bishops, elevated him to the royal dignity, in opposition, as it is 
said, to the will of some of the nobility, and of his step- 
mother ; who was anxious to advance her son Ethelred, a 
child scarcely seven years of age, in order that herself might 
govern under colour of his name. Then, from the increasing 
malice of men, the happiness of the kingdom was impaired ; 
then too, comets were seen, which were asserted certainly 
to portend either pestilence to the inhabitants, or a change in 
the government. Nor was it long ere there followed a 
scarcity of corn ; famine among men ; murrain among cattle ; 
and an extraordinary accident at a royal town called Calne. 
For as soon as Edgar was dead, the secular canons who had 
been for some time expelled their monasteries, rekindled the 
former feuds, alleging, that it was a great and serious dis- 
grace, for new comers to drive the ancient inmates from their 
dwellings ; that it could not be esteemed grateful to God, 
who had granted them their ancient habitations : neither 
could it be so to any considerate man, who might dread that 

* Virg. ^n. ii. 169. 

A.D. 975-977 ] COUNCIL AT CALNE. 163 

injustice as likely to befall himself, which he had seen over- 
take others. Hence they proceeded to clamour and rage, and 
hastened to Dunstan ; the principal people, as is the custom 
of the laity, exclaiming more especially, that the injury 
which the canons had wrongfully suffered, ought to be re- 
dressed by gentler measures. Moreover, one of them, Elfe- 
rius, with more than common audacity, had even overturned 
almost all the monasteries which that higlily revered monk 
Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, had built throughout Mer- 
cia. On this account a full synod being convened, they first 
assembled at Winchester. What was the issue of the contest 
of that place, other writings declare ;* relating, that the 
image of our Saviour, speaking decidedly, confounded the 
canons and their party. But men's minds being not yet at 
rest on the subject, a council was called at Calne ; where, 
when all the senators of England, the king being absent on 
account of his youth, had assembled in an upper chamber, 
and the business was agitated with much animosity and de- 
bate ; while the weapons of harsh reproach were directed 
against that firmest bulwark of the church, I mean Dunstan, 
but could not shake it ; and men of every rank were earnestly 
defending their several sides of the question ; the floor with 
its beams and supporters gave way suddenly and fell to the 
ground. All fell with it except Dunstan, who alone escaped 
unhurt by standing on a single rafter which retained its posi- 
tion : the rest were either killed, or subjected to lasting in- 
firmity. This miracle procured the archbishop peace on the 
score of the canons ; all the English, both at that time and 
afterwards, yielding to his sentiments. 

Meanwhile king Edward conducted liimself with becoming 
affection to his infant brother and his step-mother ; he retained 
only the name of king, and gave them the power ; following 
the footsteps of his father's piety, and giving both his attention 
and his heart to good council. The woman, however, with 
that hatred which a step-mother only can entertain, began to 
meditate a subtle stratagem, in order that not even the title 
of king might be wanting to her child, and to lay a treacher- 

* When the question was agitated, whether the monks should be sup- 
ported or the canons restored, the crucifix is said to have exclaimed, " Far 
he it from you : you have done well ; to change again would be wrong." 
See Edmer, and Osbeme, Angl. Sacra, ii. 219, 112 


164 WILLIAM OF IVIALMESBURY. [b. n. c. 9. 

0113 snare for her son-in-law, which she accomplished in the 
following manner. He was returning home, tired with the 
chas3 and gasping with thirst from the exercise, while his 
companions were following the dogs in different directions 
as it happened, when hearing that they dwelt in a neighbour- 
ing mansion, the youth proceeded thither at full speed, un- 
attended and unsuspecting, as he judged of others by his own 
feelings. On his arrival, alluring him to her with female 
blandishment, she made him lean forward, and after saluting 
him while he was eagerly drinking from the cup which had been 
presented, the dagger of an attendant pierced him through. 
Dreadfully wounded, with all his remaining strength he 
clapped spurs to his horse in order to join his companions ; 
when one foot slipping, he was dragged by the other through 
the trackless paths and recesses of the wood, while the stream- 
ing blood gave evidence of his death to his followers. More- 
over, they then commanded him to be ingloriously interred 
at Wareham ; envying him even holy ground when dead, as 
they had envied him his royal dignity while living. They 
now publicly manifested their extreme joy as if they had 
buried his memory with his body ; but God's all-seeing eye 
was there, who ennobled the innocent victim by the glory 
of miracles. So much is human outweighed by heavenly 
judgment. For there lights were shown from above ; there 
the lame walked ; there the dumb resumed his fticulty of 
speech ; there every malady gave way to health. The fame 
of this pervading all England, proclaimed the merits of the 
martyr. The murderess excited by it, attempted a progress 
thither ; and was already urging forward the horse slie had 
mounted, when she perceived the manifest anger of God ; 
for the same creature which she had heretofore constantly 
ridden, and which was used to outstrip the very wind in 
speed, now by command of God, stood motionless. The 
attendants, both with whips and clamours, urged him forward 
that he might carry his noble mistress with his usual readi- 
ness ; but their labour was in vain. They changed the 
horse ; and the same circumstance recurred. Her obdurate 
heart, though late, perceived the meaning of the miracle ; 
wherefore, what she was not herself permitted to do, she 
suffered to be performed by another : for that Elferius, 
whom I before blamed for destroying the monasteries, repent' 

A.D. 97S, 979.J ETHELKED EDMUND. 165 

ing of his rashness, and being deeply distressed in mind, took 
up the sacred corpse from its unworthy burial-place, and paid 
it just and distinguished honours at Shaftesbury. He did not 
escape unpunished, however, for, within a year afterwards, 
he was eaten of the vermin which we call lice. Moreover, 
since a mind unregulated is a torment to itself, and a restless 
spirit endures its own peculiar punishment in this life, Elf- 
thrida declining from her regal pride, became extremely 
penitent ; so that at Werewell, for many years, she clothed 
her pampered body in hair-cloth, slept at night upon the 
ground without a pillow ; and mortified her flesh with every 
kind of penance. She was a beautiful woman ; singularly 
faithful to her husband ; but deserving punishment from the 
commission of so great a crime. It is believed and commonly 
reported, that from her violence to Edward, the country for 
a long time after groaned under the yoke of barbarian ser- 

At Shaftesbury, truly shines a splendid proof of royal 
sanctity ; for to his merit must it be attributed, that there a 
numerous choir of women dedicated to God, not only en- 
lighten those parts with the blaze of their religion, but even 
reach the very heavens. There reside sacred virgins wholly 
unconscious of contamination, there, continent widows, igno- 
rant of a second flame after the extinction of the first ; in all 
whose manner, graceful modesty is so blended with chastened 
elegance, that nothing can exceed it. Indeed it is matter 
of doubt which to applaud most, their assiduity in the service 
of God or their affability in their converse with men : hence 
assent is justly given to those persons who say that, the world, 
which has long tottered with the weight of its sins, is entirely 
supported by their prayers. 


Of king Ethelred and king Edmund. [a.d. 979—1017.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 979, Ethelred, son of 
Edgar and Elfthrida, obtaining the kingdom, occupied, rather 
than governed it for thirty-seven years. The career of his 
life is said to have been cruel in the beginning, wretched in 
the middle, and disgraceful in the end. Thus, in the murder 
to which he gave his concurrence, he was cruel ; base in his 

166 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ir. c 10. 

flight, and eifeminacy ; miserable in his death. Dunstan, 
indeed, had foretold his worthlessness, having discovered it 
by a very filthy token : for when quite an infant, the bishops 
standing round, as he was immersed in the baptismal font, 
he defiled the sacrament by a natural evacuation : at which 
Dunstan, being extremely angered, exclaimed, "By Grod, 
and his mother, this will be a sorry fellow." I have read, 
that when he was ten years of age, hearing it noised abroad 
that his brother was killed, he so irritated his furious mother 
by his weeping, that not having a whip at hand, she beat the 
little innocent with some candles she had snatched up : nor 
did she desist, till herself bedewed him, nearly lifeless, with her 
tears. On this account he dreaded candles during the rest of 
his life, to such a degree that he would never suffer the light 
of them to be brought into his presence. The nobility being 
assembled by the contrivance of his mother, and the day 
appointed for Dunstan, in right of his see, to crown him, 
he, though he might be ill-affected to them, forbore to resist, 
being a prelate of mature age, and long versed in secular 
matters. But, when placing the crown on his head he could 
not refrain from giving vent Avith a loud voice, to that pro- 
phetic spirit which he had so deeply imbibed. " Since," 
said he, " thou hast aspired to the kingdom by the death of 
thy brother, hear the word of God ; thus saith the Lord 
God: the sin of thy abandoned mother, and of the accom- 
plices of her base design, shall not be washed out but by 
much blood of the wretched inhabitants ; and such evils 
shall come upon the English nation as they have never suf- 
fered from the time they came to England until then." Nor 
was it long after, that is, in his third year, that seven pirati- 
cal vessels came to Southampton, a port near Winchester, 
and having ravaged the coast fled back to the sea: this I 
think right to mention because many reports are circulated 
among the English, concerning these vessels. 

A quarrel between the king and the bishop of Rochester 
had arisen from some unknown cause ; in consequence of 
which he led an army against that city. It was signified 
to liim by the archbishop, that he should desist from his 
fury, and not irritate St. Andrew, under whose guardian- 
ship that bishopric was ; for as he was ever ready to pardon, 
so was he equally formidable to avenge. Tliis simple mes- 

A.D. 988-994.] DUNSTAN*S PROPHECY. 167 

sage being held in contempt, he graced the intimation with 
money, and sent him a hundred pounds, as a bribe, that 
he should raise the siege and retire. He therefore took the 
money, retreated, and dismissed his army. Dunstan, aston- 
ished at his avarice, sent messengers to him with the follow- 
ing words, " Since you have preferred silver to God, money 
to the apostle, and covetousness to me ; the evils which God 
has pronounced will shortly come upon you ; but they will 
not come while I live, for this also hath God spoken." Soon 
after the death of this holy man, which was in the tenth 
year of his reign, the predictions speedily began to be ful- 
filled, and the prophecies to have their consummation. For 
the Danes infested every port, and made descents on all 
sides with great activity, so that it was not known where 
they could be opposed. But Siric, the second archbishop 
after Dunstan, advised that money should repel those whom 
the sword could not : thus a payment of ten thousand pounds 
satisfied the avarice of the Danes. This was an infamous 
precedent, and totally unworthy the character of men, to 
redeem liberty, which no violence can ever extirpate from 
a noble mind, by money. They now indeed abstained a 
short time from their incursions ; but as soon as their 
strength was recruited by rest, they returned to their old 
practices. Such extreme fear had seized the Enghsh, that 
there was no thought of resistance : if any indeed, mindful 
of their ancient glory, made an attempt to oppose, or engage 
them, they were unsuccessful, from the multitude of their 
enemies, and the desertion of their alhes. The leader of 
revolt was one Elfric, whom the king had appointed to 
command the fleet: he, instead of trying his fortune, as he 
ought, in a naval conflict, went over, on the night preceding 
the battle, a base deserter to the enemy, whom he had ap- 
prised, by messengers, what preparations to make ; and 
though the king, for this perfidious crime, ordered his 
son's eyes to be put out, yet he returned again, and again 
deserted. All Northumbria being laid waste, the enemy 
was met in battle and worsted. London was besieged, but 
honourably defended by its citizens. In consequence, the 
besiegers, after suffering severely and despairing of taking 
the city, retired ; and devastating the whole province to the 
eastward, compelled the king to pay a sum of money. 

168 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. n. c. 10. 

amounting to sixteen thousand pounds. Moreover, host- 
ages being given, he caused their king Anlaf to come to 
him, stood for him at the font, and soothing him with royal 
munificence, bound him by an oath that he should never 
return into England again. The evil however was not thus 
put to rest. For they could never provide against their 
enemies from Denmark, springing up afresh, like the heads 
of the hydra. The province in the west of England, called 
Devonshire, was laid waste ; the monasteries destroyed ; and 
the city of Exeter set on fire : Kent was given up to plun- 
der ; the metropolitan city and seat of the patriarchs, burnt ; 
the holy patriarch himself, the most reverend Elphege, carried 
away and bound in chains : and at last, when required to 
plunder his tenants in order to ransom himself, and refusing 
to do so, he was stoned, struck with a hatchet, and glorified 
heaven with his soul. After he was murdered, God exalted 
him ; insomuch, that when the Danes, who had been instru- 
mental to his death, saw that dead wood besmeared with his 
blood miraculously grew green again in one night, they ran 
eagerly to kiss his remains, and to bear them on their shoul- 
ders. Thus they abated their usual pride, and suifered his 
sacred corpse to be carried to London. There it was honor- 
ably buried ; and when taken up, ten years afterwards, free 
from every taint of corruption, it conferred honour on his 
cathedral at Canterbury.* To the present moment both its 
blood remains fresh, and its soundness unimpaired, and it is 
considered a miracle, that a carcass should be divested of 
life, and yet not decay. That I may not be tedious in 
mentioning severally all the provinces which the Danes 
laid waste, let it be briefly understood, that out of thirty- 
two counties, which are reckoned in England, they had al- 
ready overrun sixteen; the names of which I forbear to 
enumerate on account of the harshness of the language. 
In the meantime, the king, admirably calculated for sleep- 
ing, did nothing but postpone and hesitate, and if ever he 
recovered his senses enough to raise himself upon liis elbow, 
he quickly relapsed into his original wretchedness, either 
from the oppression of indolence, or the adverseness of for- 
tune. His brother's ghost also, demanding dire expiation, 
tormented him. Who can tell how often he collected his 
* The life of Elphege, by Osberne, is in the Anglia Sacra, ii. 122. 

A.o. 1012.] TEEACHERT OF EDRIC. 169 

army ? how often he ordered ships to be built ? how fre- 
quently he called out commanders from all quarters ? and 
yet nothing was ever effected. For the army, destitute of 
a leader and ignorant of military discipline, either retreated 
before it came into action, or else was easily overcome. 
The presence of the leader is of much avail in battle ; 
courage manifested by liim avails also ; experience, and 
more especially, discipline avail much ; and as I have said, 
the want of these, in an army, must be an irreparable in- 
jury to its countrymen, as well as a pitiable object of con- 
tempt to an enemy. For soldiers are a kind of men, who, 
if not restrained before the battle, are eager to plunder ; and 
if not animated during it, are prone to flight. When the 
ships, built for the defence of the sea-coast, were lying at 
anchor, a tempest suddenly arising dashed them together, and 
rendered them useless by the destruction of their tackling : 
a few, fitted from the wrecks of the others, were, by the 
attack of one Wulnod, whom the king had banished, either 
sunk, or burnt, and consequently disappointed the expecta- 
tions of all England. The commanders, if ever they met 
to confer, immediately chose difierent sides, and rarely or 
never united in one good plan ; for they gave more attention 
to private quarrels, than to public exigences : and, if in the 
midst of pressing danger, they had resolved on any eligible 
secret design, it was immediately communicated to the Danes 
by traitors. For besides Elfric, the successor of Elfere who 
had murdered the late king, there was one Edric, a man 
infamously skilled in such transactions, whom the king had 
made governor of the Mercians. This fellow was the re- 
fuse of mankind, the reproach of the English ; an abandoned 
glutton, a cunning miscreant ; who had become opulent, not 
by nobility, but by specious language and impudence. This 
artful dissembler, capable of feigning anytliing, was accus- 
tomed, by pretended fidelity, to scent out the king's designs, 
that he might treacherously divulge them. Often, when 
despatched to the enemy as the mediator of peace, he in- 
flamed them to battle. His perfidy was sufiiciently con- 
spicuous in this king's reign, but much more so in the next ; 
of which I shall have occasion to speak hereafter. Ulf kytel, 
earl of the East Angles, was the only person who, at that 
time, resisted the invaders with any degree of spirit; iuso- 

170 i\t:lliam: of- malmesbukt. [b. h. c. lo. 

mucli that although the enemy had nominally the victory, 
yet the conquerors suffered much more than the conquered :* 
nor were the barbarians ashamed to confess this truth, while 
they so frequently bewailed that victory. The valour of the 
earl was more conspicuously eminent, after the death of 
Ethelred, in that battle which mowed down the whole flower 
of the province; where, when he was surrounded from the 
rear, deeming it disgraceful to fly, he gave fresh confidence 
to the king by his blood ; but this happened some time 
after.j At this juncture, that the measure of king Ethelred's 
misery might be full, a famine ravaged all England, and 
those whom war had spared perished from want. The 
enemy over-ran the country with such freedom, that they 
would carry off their booty to their ships through a space of 
fifty miles, without fearing any resistance from the inhabit- 
ants. In the midst of these pressing evils, the expedient of 
buying off hostilities by money was again debated and 
adopted ; for first twenty-four, and soon after, thirty thou- 
sand pounds were given to the Danes : with what advantage, 
succeeding times will show. To me, indeed, deeply reflect- 
ing upon the subject, it seems wonderful, how a man, as we 
have been taught to suppose, neither very foolish, nor exces- 
sively heartless, should pass his life in the wretched en- 
durance of so many calamities. Should any one ask me the 
reason of this, I could not easily answer, except by saying, 
that the revolt of the generals proceeded from the haughti- 
ness of the king. Their perfidy has been spoken of before : 
I now hasten to instances of his violence, which was so 
intolerable, that he spared not even his own relations. For, 
besides the English, whom he despoiled of their hereditary 
possessions without any cause, or defrauded of their property 
for supposititious crimes: besides the Danes, whom, from 
light suspicion only, he ordered to be all butchered on the 
same day throughout England ; which was a dreadful spec- 
tacle to behold; each one compelled to betray his dearest 
guests, now become dearer from the tenderest connexions of 

* Ulfkytel attacked the Danes near Thetford, a.d. 1004, and though 
compelled to retreat, yet occasioned so severe a loss to the enemy, that 
they are said to have acknowledged that they had never endured a more 
powerful attack. See Flor. Wigorn., and the Saxon Chronicle, a.d. 1004. 

f At Assingdon in Essex, a.d. lOlG. 


affiiiitj-, and to cut sliort tlieir embraces with the sword : yet 
besides all this, I say, he was so inconstant towards his wife, 
that he scarcely deigned her his bed, and degraded the royal 
dignity by his intercourse with harlots. She too, a woman, 
conscious of her high descent, became indignant at her hus- 
band, as she found herself endeared to him neither by her 
blameless modesty nor her fruitfulness ; for she had borne 
him two children, Elfred and Edward. She was the daugh- 
ter of Richard, earl of Normandy, the son of William, who, 
after his father, presided over that earldom for fifty-two 
years, and died in the twenty-eighth year of this king. He 
lies at the monastery of Fescamp, which he augmented with 
certain revenues, and which he adorned with a monastic 
order, by means of William, formerly abbat of Dijon. Rich- 
ard was a distinguished character, and had also often 
harassed Ethelred : which, when it became known at Rome, 
the holy see, not enduring that two Christians should be at 
enmity, sent Leo, bishop of Treves, into England, to restore 
peace : the epistle describing this legation was as follows : — 
" John the fifteenth, pope of the holy Roman church, to 
all ftiithful people, health. Be it known to all the faithful of 
the holy mother church, and our children spiritual and secu- 
lar, dispersed through the several climates of the world, that 
inasmuch as we had been informed by many of the enmity 
between Ethelred, king of the West- Saxons, and Richard 
the marquis, and were grieved sorely at this, on account of 
our spiritual chikben ; taking, therefore, wholesome counsel, 
we summoned one of our legates, Leo, bishop of the holy 
church of Treves, and sent him with our letters, admonish- 
ing them, that they should return from their ungodliness. 
He, passing vast spaces, at length crossed the sea, and, on 
the day of the Lord's nativity, came into the presence of the 
said king ; whom, having saluted on our part, he delivered 
to him the letters we had sent. And all the faithful people 
of liis kingdom, and senators of either order, being sum- 
moned, he granted, for love and fear of God Almighty, and 
of St. Peter, the chief of the apostles, and on account of our 
paternal admonition, the firmest peace for all his sons and 
daughters, present and future, and all his faithful people, 
without deceit. On which account he sent Edelsin, prelate 
of the holy church of Sherborne, and Leofstan, son of Alf- 

172 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY, [b ii. c. 10. 

wold, and Edelnoth, son of Wulstan, who passed the mari- 
time boundaries, and came to Richard, the said marquis. 
He, peaceably receiving our admonitions, and hearing the 
determination of the said king, readily confirmed the peace 
for his sons and daughters, present and future, and for all 
his faithful people, with this reasonable condition, that if any 
of their subjects, or they themselves, should commit any 
injustice against each other, it should be duly redressed; and 
that peace should remain for ever unshaken and confirmed 
by the oath of both parties : on the part of king Ethelred, to 
wit, Edelsin, prelate of the holy church of Sherborne; Leof- 
stan, the son of Alfwold ; Edelnoth, the son of Wulstan. On 
the part of Richard, Roger, the bishop; Rodolph, son of 
Hugh ; Truteno, the son of Thurgis. 

*' Done at Rouen, on the kalends of March, in the year of 
our Lord 991, the fourth of the indiction. Moreover, of the 
king's subjects, or of his enemies, let Richard receive none, 
nor the king of his, without their respective seals." 

After the death of this John, Gregory succeeded ; after 
whom came John XVI. ; then Silvester, also called G-erbert, 
about whom it will not be absurd, in my opinion, if I com- 
mit to writing those facts which are generally related about 
him.* Born in Gaul, from a lad he grew up a monk at 
Flory; afterwards, when he arrived at the double path of 
Pythagoras,! either disgusted at a monastic life or seized by 
lust of glory, he fled by night into Spain, chiefly designing 
to learn astrology and other sciences of that description from 
the Saracens. Spain, formerly for many years possessed by 
the Romans, in the time of the emperor Honorius, fell under 
the power of the Goths. The Goths were Arians down to 
the days of St. Gregory, when that people were united to 
the Catholic church by Leander bishop of Seville, and by 
king Recared, brother of Hermengildus,J whom his father 

* In several of the manuscripts there is an omission of several words 
which has made nonsense of the whole paragraph. Its restoration is due 
to Mr. Hardy, in whose edition of William of Malmesbury it is given cor- 
rectly from MS. authority. 

+ That is, when he had attained that age when a man settles, or chooses 
his future line of conduct ; or, to years of discretion. This Pythagoras re- 
presented by the form of the letter Y, or the Greek gamma. 

X Hermenegild the eldest son of Leovigild. He was invested by hia 


slew on Easter night for professing the true faith. To Lean- 
der succeeded Isidore,* celebrated for learning and sanctity, 
whose body purchased, for its weight in gold, Aldefonsus 
king of Gallicia in our times conveyed to Toledo. The Sa- 
racens, who had subjugated the Goths, being conquered in 
their turn by Charles the Great, lost GaUicia and Lusitania, 
the largest provinces of Spain ; but to this day they possess 
the southern parts. As the Christians esteem Toledo, so do 
they hold Hispalis, which in common they call Seville, to be 
the capital of the kingdom ; there practising divinations and 
incantations, after the usual mode of that nation. Gerbert 
then, as I have related, coming among these people, satisfied 
his desires. There he surpassed Ptolemy with the astrolabe, f 
and Alcandraeus in astronomy, and Julius Firmicus in judi- 
cial astrology ; there he learned what the singing and the 
flight of birds portended ; there he acquired the art of call- 
ing up spirits from hell : in short, whatever, hurtful or salu- 
tary, human curiosity has discovered. There is no necessity 
to speak of his progress in the lawful sciences of arithmetic 
and astronomy, music and geometry, which he imbibed so 
thoroughly as to show they were beneath his talents, and 
wliich, with great perseverance, he revived in Gaul, where 
they had for a long time been wholly obsolete. Being cer- 
tainly the first who seized on the abacus J from the Saracens, 

father with the royal diadem and the principality of Boetica, and contracted 
an alliance with Ingnndis, daughter of vSigebert, king of Austrasia. Ingun - 
dis was persecuted, and at length killed by her husband's mother, on 
account of her Catholic faith. Leander, archbishop of Seville, easily per- 
suaded Hermenegild to resent the treatment of his bride, and assisted him 
in an attempt to dethrone his father. Hermenegild was taken and sen- 
tenced to death for his rebellion. The inflexible constancy, with which he 
refused to accept the Arian communion, from which he had been con- 
verted by Leander, as the price of his safety, procured for him the honour 
of being enrolled among the saints of the Romish church. — Hardy. 

• Isidore was bishop of Seville in the sixth century. 

f An instrument for making celestial observations. The reader who is 
conversant with the Arabian Nights' Entertainments will remember its be- 
ing frequently mentioned in that amusing book. 

t The abacus was a counting table : here it seems used metaphorically 
for arithmetic, Gerbert having written a treatise on arithmetic ^vith that title. 
The authors of the Hist. Litt. de la France, t. vi. understand him literally, n« 
stealing a book containing the principles of the science, and then con- 
found this supposed book with the conjuring treatise mentioned below. 
They also seem very much displeased with Malmesbury for relating these 

174 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. ii. c. 10. 

he gave rules which are scarcely understood even by laborious 
computers. He resided with a certain philosopher of that 
sect, whose good will he had obtained, first by great liberal- 
ity, and then by promises. The Saracen had no objection to 
sell his knowledge ; he frequently associated with him ; 
would talk with him of matters at times serious, at others 
trivial, and lend him books to transcribe. There was how- 
ever one volume, containing the knowledge of his whole art, 
which he could never by any means entice him to lend. In 
consequence Gerbert was inflamed with anxious desire to 
obtain this book at any rate, " for we ever press more eagerly 
towards what is forbidden, and that which is denied is always 
esteemed most valuable."* Trying, therefore, the effect of 
entreaty, he besought him for the love of God, and by his 
friendship; offered him many things, and promised him 
more. When this failed he tried a nocturnal stratagem. 
He plied him with wine, and, with the help of his daughter, 
who connived at the attempt through the intimacy which 
Gerbert's attentions had procured, stole the book from under 
his pillow and fled. Waking suddenly, the Saracen pursued 
the fugitive by the direction of the stars, in which art he 
was well versed. The fugitive too, looking back, and disco- 
vering his danger by means of the same art, hid himself under 
a wooden bridge which was near at hand ; clinging to it, and 
hanging in such a manner as neither to touch earth nor 
water. I In this manner the eagerness of the pursuer being 
eluded, he returned home. Gerbert, then quickening his 
pace, arrived at the sea-coast. Here, by his incantations, he 
called up the devil, and made an agreement with him to be 
under his dominion for ever, if he would defend him from 
the Saracen, who was again pursuing, and transport him to 
the opposite coast : this was accordingly done. 

Probably some may regard all this as a fiction, because 
the vulgar are used to undermine the fame of scholars, say- 
ing that the man who excels in any admirable science, holds 
converse with the devil. Of this, Boethius, in his book. On 

tales of their countryman, and attribute them to cardinal Benno ; but there 
is nothing of this kind in his work published by Goldastus, and in Brown's 
Fasciculus, t. i. 

* Ovid. Amor. iii. iv. 17. 

t This was perhaps a necessary precaution, according to the rules of the 
necromantic art. 

A.D. 1002. j ROBERT, KING OF FRANCE. 175 

the Consolation of Philosophy, complains ; and affirms, that 
he had the discredit of such practices on account of his 
ardent love of literature, as if he had polluted his knowledge 
by detestable arts for the sake of ambition. " It was hardly 
likely," says he, " that I, whom you dress up with such ex- 
cellence as almost to make me like God, should catch at the 
protection of the vilest spirits ; but it is in this point that 
we approach nearest to a connection with them, in that we 
are instructed in your learning, and educated in your cus- 
toms." So far Boethius. The singular choice of his death 
confirms me in the belief of liis league with the devil ; else, 
when dying, as we shall relate hereafter, why should he, 
gladiator-like, maim his own person, unless conscious of some 
unusual crime ? Accordingly, in an old volume, which acci- 
dentally fell into my hands, wherein the names and years of 
all the popes are entered, I found written to the following 
purport, " Silvester, who was also called Gerbert, ten months ; 
this man made a shameful end." 

Gerbert, returning into Gaul, became a public professor in 
the schools, and had as brother pliilosophers and companions 
of his studies, Constantine, abbat of the monastery of St. 
Maximin, near Orleans, to whom he addressed the Rules of 
the Abacus ;* and Ethelbald bishop, as they say, of Winte- 
burg, who himself gave proof of ability, in a letter which 
he wrote to Gerbert, on a question concerning the diameter 
in Macrobius,! and in some other points. He had as pupils, 
of exquisite talents and noble origin, Robert, son of Hugh 
surnamed Capet ; and Otho, son of the emperor Otho. Ro- 
bert, afterwards king of France, made a suitable return to 
his master, and appointed him archbishop of Rheims. In 
that church are still extant, as proofs of his science, a clock 
constructed on mechanical principles: and an hydraulic 
organ, in which the air escaping in a surprising manner, by 
the force of heated water, fills the cavity of the instrument, 
and the brazen pipes emit modulated tones through the mul- 
tifarious apertures. The king himself, too, was well skilled 
in sacred music, and in this and many other respects, a libe- 
ral benefactor to the church : moreover, he composed that 
beautiful sequence, " The grace of the Holy Spirit be with 

* His treatise so called. t Macrob. in Somn. Scip. i. 20. 

176 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 10 

US ;" and the response, " He hath joined together Judah and 
Jerusalem ;" together with more, which I should have plea- 
sure in relating, were it not irksome to others to hear. Otho, 
emperor of Italy after his father, made Gerbert archbishop 
of Ravenna, and finally Roman pontiff. He followed up his 
fortune so successfully by the assistance of the devil, that he 
left nothing unexecuted which he had once conceived. The 
treasures formerly buried by the inhabitants, he disco- 
vered by the art of necromancy, and removing the rubbish, 
applied to his own lusts. Thus viciously disposed are the 
wicked towards God, and thus they abuse his patience, 
though he had rather that they repent than perish. At last, 
he found where his master would stop, and as the proverb 
says, " in the same manner as one crow picks out another 
crow's eyes," while endeavouring to oppose his "attempts with 
art like his own. 

There was a statue in the Campus Martins near Rome, I 
know not whether of brass or iron, having the forefinger of the 
right hand extended, and on the head was written, " Strike 
here." The men of former times supposing this should be 
understood as if they might find a treasure there, had bat- 
tered the harmless statute by repeated strokes of a hatchet. 
But Gerbert convicted them of error by solving the problem 
in a very different manner. Marking where the shadow of 
the finger fell at noon-day, when the sun was on the meridian, 
he there placed a post ; and at night proceeded thither, attended 
only by a servant carrying a lanthorn. The earth opening 
by means of his accustomed arts, displayed to them a spacious 
entrance. They see before them a vast palace with golden 
walls, golden roofs, every thing of gold ; golden soldiers 
amusing themselves, as it were, with golden dice ; a king of 
the same metal, at table with his queen ; delicacies set before 
them, and servants waiting ; vessels of great weight and 
value, where the sculpture surpassed nature herself In the 
inmost part of the mansion, a carbuncle of the first quality, 
though small in appearance, dispelled the darkness of night. 
In the opposite corner stood a boy, holding a bow bent, 
and the arrow drawn to the head. While the exquisite 
art of every thing ravished the eyes of the spectators, 
there was nothing which might be handled though it might 
be seen : for immediately, if any one stretched forth his hand 


to touch any thing, all these figures appeared to rush forward 
and repel such presumption. Alarmed at this, Gerbert re- 
jtressed his inclination : but not so the servant. He en- 
deavoured to snatch off from a table, a knife of admirable 
workmanship ; supposing that in a booty of such magnitude, 
so small a theft could hardly be discovered. In an instant, 
the figures all starting up with loud clamour, the boy let fly 
his arrow at the carbuncle, and in a moment all was in dark- 
ness ; and if the servant had not, by the advice of his master, 
made the utmost despatch in throwing back the knife, they 
would have both suffered severely. In this manner, their 
boundless avarice unsatiated, they departed, the lantern 
directing their steps. That he performed such things by un- 
lawful devices is the generally received opinion. Yet, how- 
ever, if any one diligently investigate the truth, he will see 
that even Solomon, to whom God himself had given wisdom, 
was not ignorant of these arts : for, as Josephus relates,* he, 
in conjunction with his father, buried vast treasures in coffers, 
which were hidden, as he says, in a kind of necromantic 
manner, under ground : neither was Hyrcanus, celebrated 
for his skill in prophecy and his valour ; who, to ward off 
the distress of a siege, dug up, by the same art, three thousand 
talents of gold from the sepulchre of David, and gave part 
of them to the besiegers ; with the remainder building an 
hospital for the reception of strangers. But Herod, who 
would make an attempt of the same kind, with more pre- 
sumption than knowledge, lost in consequence many of his 
attendants, by an eruption of internal fire. Besides, when 
I hear the Lord Jesus saying, " My father worketh hitherto, 
and I work ;" I believe, that He, who gave to Solomon power 
over demons to such a degree, as the same historian declares, 
that he relates there were men, even in his time, who could 
eject them from persons possessed, by applying to the nostrils 
of the patient a ring having the impression pointed out by 
Solomon : I believe, I say, that he could give, also, the same 
science to this man : but I do not affirm that he did give it. 

But leaving these matters to my readers, I shall relate 
what I recollect having heard, when I was a boy, from a cer- 
tain monk of our house, a native of Aquitaine, a man in 

* JosephuB Antiq. Jud. 1. %ai. c. 15. viii. 2. 

178 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. it. c. 10. 

years, and a physician by profession. " When I was seven 
years old," said he, " despising the mean circumstances of my 
father, a poor citizen of Barcelona, I surmounted the snowy 
Alps, and went into Italy. There, as was to be expected in a 
boy of that age, having to seek my daily bread in great distress, 
I paid more attention to the food of my mind than of my 
body. As I grew up I eagerly viewed many of the wonders 
of that country and impressed them on my memory. Among 
others I saw a perforated mountain, beyond which the in- 
habitants supposed the treasures of Octavian were hidden. 
Many persons were reported to have entered into these 
caverns for the purpose of exploring them, and to have there 
perished, being bewildered by the intricacy of the ways. But, 
as hardly any apprehension can restrain avaricious minds 
from their intent, I, with my companions, about twelve in 
number, meditated an expedition of this nature, either for 
the sake of plunder, or through curiosity. Imitating there- 
fore the ingenuity of Daedalus, who brought Theseus out of 
the labyrinth by a conducting clue, we, also carrying a large 
ball of thread, fixed a small post at the entrance. Tying the 
end of the thread to it, and lighting lanterns, lest dark- 
ness, as well as intricacy, should obstruct us, we unrolled the 
clue ; and fixing a post at every mile, we proceeded on our 
journey along the caverns of the mountain, in the best 
manner we were able. Every thing was dark, and full of 
horrors ; the bats, flitting from holes, assailed our eyes and 
faces : the path was narrow, and made dreadful on the left- 
hand by a precipice, with a river flowing beneath it. We 
saw the way strewed with bare bones : we wept over the 
carcasses of men yet in a state of putrefaction, who, induced 
by hopes similar to our own, had in vain attempted, after 
their entrance, to return. After some time, however, and 
many alarms, arriving at the farther outlet, we beheld a lake 
of softly murmuring waters, where the wave came gently 
rolling to the shores. A bridge of brass united the opposite 
banks. Beyond the bridge were seen golden horses of great 
size, mounted by golden riders, and all those other things 
which are related of Gerbert. The mid-day beams of 
Phoebus darting upon them, with redoubled splendour, daz- 
zled the eyes of the beholders. Seeing these things at a dis- 
tance, we should have been delighted with a nearer view, 

A.0. 1002. J THE AQUTTANIAN MONK. 179 

meaning, if fate would permit, to carry off some portion of 
the precious metal. Animating each other in turn, we pre- 
pared to pass over the lake. AH our efforts, however, were 
vain : for as soon as one of the company, more forward than 
the rest, had put his foot on the liither edge of the bridge, 
immediately, wonderful to hear, it became depressed, and the 
farther edge was elevated, bringing forward a rustic of brass 
with a brazen club, with which, dashing the waters, he so 
clouded the air, as completely to obscure both the day and 
the heavens. The moment the foot was withdrawn, peace 
was restored. The same was tried by many of us, with 
exactly the same result. Despairing, then, of getting over, 
we stood there some little time ; and, as long as we could, at 
least glutted our eyes with the gold. Soon after returning 
by the guidance of the thread, we found a silver dish, which 
being cut in pieces and distributed in morsels only irritated 
the thirst of our avidity without allaying it. Consulting 
together the next day, we went to a professor, of that time, 
who was said to know the unutterable name of God. When 
questioned, he did not deny his knowledge, adding, that, so 
great was the power of that name, that no magic, no witch- 
craft could resist it. Hiring him at a great price, fasting 
and confessed, he led us, prepared in the same manner, to a 
fountain. Taking up some water from it in a silver vessel, 
he silently traced the letters with liis fingers, until we under- 
stood by our eyes, what was unutterable with our tongues. 
We then went confidently to the mountain, but we found the 
farther outlet beset, as I believe, with devils, hating, forsooth, 
the name of God because it was able to destroy their inven- 
tions. In the morning a Jew-necromancer came to me, ex- 
cited by the report of our attempt ; and, having inquired 
into the matter, when he heard of our want of enterprise, 
" You shall see," said he, venting his spleen with loud laugh- 
ter, "how far the power of my art can prevail." And 
immediately entering the mountain, he soon after came out 
again, bringing, as a proof of his having passed the lake, 
many things which I had noted beyond it : indeed some of that 
most precious dust, which turned every thing that it touched 
into gold : not that it was really so, but only retained this 
appearance until washed with water ; for notliing effected 
by necromancy can, when put into water, deceive the sight 


180 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. Lb- n. c. 10. 

of the beholders. The truth of my assertion is confirmed 
hj a circumstance which happened about the same time. 

" There were in a public street leading to Rome, two old 
•women, the most drunken and filthy beings that can be con- 
ceived ; both living in the same hut, and both practising 
witchcraft. If any lone stranger happened to come in their 
way, they used to make him appear either a horse, or a sow, 
or some other animal ; expose him for sale to dealers, and 
gluttonize with the money. By chance, on a certain night, 
taking in a lad to lodge who got his livelihood by stage- 
dancing, they turned him into an ass : and so possessed a 
creature extremely advantageous to their interests, who 
caught the eyes of such as passed by the strangeness of his 
postures. In whatever mode the old woman commanded, 
the ass began to dance, for he retained his understanding, 
though he had lost the power of speech. In this manner 
the women had accumulated much money ; for there was, 
daily, a large concourse of people, from all parts, to see the 
tricks of the ass. The report of this induced a rich neigh- 
bour to purchase the quadruped for a considerable sum ; and 
he was warned, that, if he would have him as a constant 
dancer, he must keep him from water. The person who had 
charge of him rigidly fulfilled his orders. A long time 
elapsed ; the ass sometimes gratified his master by his reeling 
motions, and sometimes entertained his friends with his tricks. 
But, however, as in time all things surfeit, he began at length 
to be less cautiously observed. In consequence of this 
negligence, breaking his halter, he got loose, plunged into a 
pool hard by, and rolling for a long time in the water, re- 
covered his human form. The keeper, inquiring of all he 
met, and pursuing him by the track of his feet, asked him if 
he had seen an ass ; he replied that himself had been an ass, 
but was now a man : and related the whole transaction. The 
servant astonished told it to his master, and the master to 
pope Leo, the holiest man in our times. The old women 
were convicted, and confessed the fact. The pope doubting 
this, was assured by Peter Damian, a learned man, that it 
was not wonderful that such things should be done : he pro- 
duced the example of Simon Magus,* who caused Faustini- 

* In the fabulous Itinerary of St. Peter, falsely attributed to Clemens 
Romanus, Simon is represented as causing Faustinianus to assume his 

A.D. 1050.] DEATH OF SILVESTER. 181 

anus to assume the figure of Simon, and to become an object 
of terror to his sons, and thus rendered his holiness better 
skilled in such matters for the future." 

I have inserted this narrative of the Aquitanian to the in- 
tent that what is reported of Gerbert should not seem 
wonderful to any person ; which is, that he cast, for his own 
purposes, the head of a statue, by a certain inspection of the 
stars when all the planets were about to begin their courses, 
which spake not unless spoken to, but then pronounced the 
truth, either in the affirmative or negative. For instance, 
when Gerbert would say, " Shall I be pope ?" the statute 
would reply, " Yes." " Am I to die, ere I sing mass at 
Jerusalem ?" " No." They relate, that he was so much 
deceived by this ambiguity, that he thought nothing of 
repentance : for when would he think of going to Jerusalem, 
to accelerate his own death ? Nor did he foresee that at Rome 
there is a church called Jerusalem, that is, " the vision of 
peace," because whoever flies thither finds safety, whatsoever 
crime he may be guilty of. We have heard, that this was 
called an asylum in the very infancy of the city, because 
Romulus, to increase the number of his subjects, had ap- 
pointed it to be a refuge for the guilty of every description. 
The pope sings mass there on three Sundays, which are 
called " The station at Jerusalem." Wherefore upon one of 
those days Gerbert, preparing himself for mass, was suddenly 
struck with sickness ; which increased so that he took to his 
bed : and consulting his statue, he became convinced of his 
delusion and of his approaching death. Calling, therefore, 
the cardinals together, he lamented his crimes for a long 
space of time. They, being struck with sudden fear were 
unable to make any reply, whereupon he began to rave, and 
losing his reason through excess of pain, commanded him- 
self to be maimed, and cast forth piecemeal, saying, " Let 
liim have the service of my limbs, who before sought their 
homage ; for my mind never consented to that abominable 

And since I have wandered from my subject, I think it 
may not be unpleasant to relate what took place in Saxony 

countenance, by rubbing his face with a medicated unguent, to the great 
alarm of his son^ who mistook him for Simon, and fled until recalled b)' 
St. Peter. 

182 WILLLIAM OF 5IALMESBURT. |b. ii. c. 10. 

in the time of this king, in the year of our Lord 1012, and 
is not so generally known. It is better to dilate on such 
matters than to dwell on Ethelred's indolence and calamities : 
and it will be more pleasing certainly, and nearer the truth, 
if I subjoin it in the original language of the person who was 
a sufferer, than if I had clothed it in my own words. Besides, 
I think it ornamental to a work, that the style should be 
occasionally varied. 

" I Ethelbert,* a sinner, even were I desirous of concealing 
the divine judgment which overtook me, yet the tremor of 
my limbs would betray me ; wherefore I shall relate circum- 
stantially how this happened, that all may know the heavy 
punishment due to disobedience. We were, on the eve of 
our Lord^s nativity, in a certain town of Saxony, in which 
was the church of Magnus the martyr, and a priest named 
Robert had begun the first mass. I was in the churchyard 
with eighteen companions, fifteen men and three women, 
dancing, and singing profane songs to such a degree that I 
interrupted the priest, and our voices resounded amid the 
sacred solemnity of the mass. Wherefore, having commanded 
us to be silent, and not being attended to, he cursed us in the 
following words, ' May it please God and St. Magnus, that 
you may remain singing in that manner for a whole year.* 
His words had their efiect. The son of John the priest 
seized his sister who was singing with us, by the arm, and 
immediately tore it from her body ; but not a drop of blood 
flowed out. She also remained a whole year with us, dancing 
and singing. The rain fell not upon us ; nor did cold, nor 
heat, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor fatigue assail us : we neither 
wore our clothes nor shoes, but we kept on singing as though 
we had been insane. First we sank into the ground up to 
our knees : next to our thighs ; a covering was at length, by 
the permission of G-od, built over us to keep ofi* the rain. 
When a year had elapsed, Herbert, bishop of the city of 
Cologne, released us from the tie wherewith our hands were 
bound, and reconciled us before the altar of St. Magnus. 
The daughter of the priest, with the other two women, died 
immediately ; the rest of us slept three whole days and 
nights : some died afterwards, and are famed for miracles : 
the remainder betray their punishment by the trembUng of 
* Other MSS. read Otbert. 


their limbs. This narrative was given to us by the lord 
Peregrine, the successor of Herbert, in the year of our Lord 

In that city, which formerly was called Agrippina, from 
Agrippa the son-in-law of Augustus, but afterwards named 
Colonia by the emperor Trajan, because being there created 
emperor he founded in it a colony of Roman citizens ; in this 
city, I repeat, there was a certain bishop, famed for piety, 
though to a degree hideous in his person ; of whom I shall re- 
late one miracle, which he predicted when dying, after having 
first recorded what a singular chance elevated him to such an 
eminent station. The emperor of that country going to 
hunt on Quinquagesima Sunday, came alone, for his corn- 
companions were dispersed, to the edge of a wood, where 
this rural priest, deformed and almost a monster, had a 
church. The emperor, feigning himself a soldier, humbly 
begs a mass, which the priest immediately begins. The 
other in the meantime was revolving in his mind why God, 
from whom all beautiful things proceed, should suffer so de- 
formed a man to administer his sacraments. Presently, 
when that verse in the tract occurred, " Know ye that the 
Lord liimself is God," the priest looked behind him, to chide 
the inattention of an assistant, and said with a louder voice, 
as if in reply to the emperor's thoughts, " He made us ; and 
not we ourselves." Struck with this expression, the emperor 
esteeming him a prophet, exalted him, though unwilling and 
reluctant, to the archbishopric of Cologne, which, when he 
had once assumed, he dignified by his exemplary conduct ; 
kindly encouraging those who did well, and branding with 
the stigma of excommunication such as did otherwise, with- 
out respect of persons. The inhabitants of that place pro- 
claim a multitude of his impartial acts; one of which the 
reader will peruse in that abbreviated form which my work 
requires. In a monastery of nuns in that city, there was a 
certain virgin who had there grown up, more by the kind- 
ness of her parents than through any innate wish for a holy 
life : this girl, by the attraction of her beauty and her affable 
language to all, allured many lovers; but while others, 
through fear of God or the censure of the world, restrained 
their desires, there was one who, excited to wantonness by 
the extent of his wealth and the nobility of his descent, 

184 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 10. 

broke through the bounds of law and of justice, and de- 
spoiled her of her virginity ; and carrying her off kept her 
as his lawful wife. Much time elapsed while the abbess en- 
treated, and his friends admonislied him not to persevere in 
so dreadful a crime. Turning a deaf ear, however, to his 
advisers, he continued as immoveable as a rock. By chance 
at this time the prelate was absent, occupied in business at 
Rome : but on his return the circumstance was related to 
him. He commands the sheep to be returned to the fold 
directly ; and after much altercation the woman was restored 
to the monastery. Not long after, watching an opportunity 
when the bishop was absent, she was again carried away. 
Excommunication was then denounced against the delinquent, 
so that no person could speak to, or associate with him. 
This, however, he held in contempt, and retired to one of his 
estates afar off, not to put the command in force, but to elude 
its power : and there, a turbulent and powerful man, he lived 
in company with his excommunicated paramour. But when it 
pleased God to take the bishop to himself, and he was lying 
in extreme bodily pain upon his bed, the neighbours flocked 
around him that they might partake the final benediction of 
this holy man. The offender alone not daring to appear, 
prevailed on some persons to speak for him. The moment 
the bishop heard his name he groaned, and then, I add his 
very words, spoke to the following effect, " If that wretched 
man shall desert that accursed woman, he shall be absolved ; 
but if he persist, let him be ready to give account before 
God, the following year, at the very day and hour on which 
I shall depart : moreover, you will see me expire when the 
bell shall proclaim the sixth hour." Nor were his words 
vain ; for he departed at the time which he had predicted ; 
and the other, together with his mistress, at the expiration 
of the year, on the same day, and at the same hour, was 
killed by a stroke of lightning. 

But king Ethelred, after the martyrdom of Elphege, as we 
have related, gave his see to a bishop named Living.* More- 
over, Turkill, the Dane, who had been the chief cause of the 
archbishop's murder, had settled in England, and held the 
East Angles in subjection. For the other Danes, exacting 

* "Living, formerly called Elfstan, was translated from Wells to 
Canterbury in the year 1013; he died, 12th June, 1020." — Hardy. 


from the English a tribute of eight thousand pounds, had 
distributed themselves, as best suited their convenience, in 
the towns, or in the country ; and fifteen of their ships, with 
the crews, had entered into the king's service. In the 
meantime Thurkill sent messengers to Sweyn, king of Den- 
mark, inviting him to come to England ; telling him that the 
land was rich and fertile, but the king a driveller ; and that, 
wholly given up to wine and women, his last thoughts were 
those of war : that in consequence he was hateful to his own 
people and contemptible to foreigners : that the commanders 
were jealous of each other, the people weak, and that they 
would fly the field, the moment the onset was sounded. 

Sweyn* was naturally cruel, nor did he require much 
persuasion ; preparing his ships, therefore, he hastened his 
voyage. Sandwich was the port he made, principally de- 
signing to avenge his sister Gunhilda. This woman, who 
possessed considerable beauty, had come over to England 
with her husband Palling, a powerful nobleman, and by em- 
bracing Christianity, had made herself a pledge of the Dan- 
ish peace. In his ill-fated fury, Edi'ic had commanded her, 
though proclaiming that the shedding her blood would bring 
great evil on the whole kingdom, to be beheaded with the other 
Danes. She bore her death with fortitude ; and she neither 
turned pale at the moment, nor, when dead, and her blood ex- 
hausted, did she lose her beauty ; her husband was murdered 
before her face, and her son, a youth of amiable disposition, 
was transfixed with four spears. Sweyn then proceeding 
through East Anglia against the Northumbrians, received their 
submission without resistance : not indeed, that the native 
ardour of their minds, which brooked no master, had grown 
cool, but because Utred, their prince, was the first to give ex- 
ample of desertion. On their submission all the other people 
who inhabit England on the north, gave him tribute and hos- 
tages. Coming southward, he compelled those of Oxford and 
Winchester, to obey his commands ; the Londoners alone, pro- 
tecting their lawful sovereign within their walls, shut their 
* Malmesbury seems to have fallen into some confusion here. The 
murder of the Danes took place on St. Brice's day, a.d. 1002, and accord- 
ingly we find Sweyn infesting England in 1 003 and the following year 
(see Saxon Chronicle) : but this his second arriva. took place, a.d. 1013 : 
so that the avenging the murder of his sister Gunhilda could hardlv be the 
object of his present attack. 

186 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ir. c. 10. 

gates against him. The Danes, on the other hand, assailing 
with greater ferocity, nurtured their fortitude with the hope 
of fame; the townsmen were ready to rush on death for 
freedom, tliinking they ought never to be forgiven, should 
they desert their king, who had committed his Hfe to their 
charge. While the conflict was raging fiercely on either 
side, victory befriended the juster cause; for the citizens 
made wonderful exertions, every one esteeming it glorious to 
show his unwearied alacrity to his prince, or even to die for 
him. Part of the enemy were destroyed, and part drowned 
in the river Thames, because in their headlong fury, they 
had not sought a bridge. With his shattered army Sweyn 
retreated to Bath, where Ethelmer, governor of the western 
district, with his followers, submitted to him. And, although 
all England was already bending to his dominion, yet not 
even now would the Londoners have yielded, had not Ethel- 
red withdrawn his presence from among them. For being a 
man given up to indolence, and, through consciousness of his 
own misdeeds, supposing none could be faithful to him, and 
at the same time wishing to escape the difficulties of a battle 
and a siege, he by his departure left them to their own exer- 
tions. However, they applied the best remedy they could to 
their exigencies, and surrendered after the example of their 
countrymen. They were men laudable in the extreme, and 
such as Mars himself would not have disdained to encounter, 
had they possessed a competent leader. Even while they 
were supported by the mere shadow of one, they risked 
every chance of battle, nay even a siege of several months' 
continuance. He in the meantime giving fresh instance 
of his constitutional indolence, fled from the city, and by 
secret journeys came to Southampton, whence he passed over 
to the Isle of Wight. Here he addressed those abbats and 
bishops who, even in such difficulties, could not bring them- 
selves to desert their master, to the following eflfect: "That 
they must perceive in what dreadful state his afl'airs, and 
those of his family were ; that he was banished from his pa- 
ternal throne by the treachery of his generals, and that he, 
in whose hands their safety was formerly vested, now re- 
quired the assistance of others ; that though lately a monarch 
and a potentate, he was now an outcast and a fugitive ; a 
melancholy change for him, because it certainly is more toler- 

AD. 1013.] ETHELREd's CONFERENCE. 187 

able never to have liad power, tlian to have lost it when 
possessed ; and more especially disgraceful to the EngHsh, as 
this instance of deserting their prince would be noised 
tliroughout the world; that through mere regard to him 
they had exposed their houses and property to plunderers, 
and, unprovided, taken to a voluntary flight ; food was mat- 
ter of difiiculty to all ; many had not even clothing ; he 
commended their fideUty indeed, but still could find no secu- 
rity from it ; the country was now so completely subdued, 
the coast so narrowly watched, that there was no escape im- 
attended with danger : that they should, therefore, confer to- 
gether, what was to be done : were they to remain, greater 
peril was to be apprehended from their countrymen, than 
from their enemies, for perhaps they might purchase the 
favour of their new master by joining to distress them ; and 
certainly to be killed by an enemy was to be ascribed to fortune, 
to be betrayed by a fellow citizen was to be attributed to want of 
exertion ; were they to fly to distant nations, it would be with the 
loss of honour ; if to those who knew them, the dread would 
be, lest their dispositions should take a tinge from their reverse 
of fortune; for many great and illustrious men had been 
killed on similar occasions ; but, however, he must make the 
experiment, and sound the inclinations of Richard, duke of 
Normandy, who, if he should kindly receive his sister and 
nephews, might probably not unwillingly afford him his pro- 
tection. His favour shown to my wife and children," con- 
tinued he, " will be the pledge of my own security. Should 
he oppose me, I am confident, nay fully confident, I shall not 
want spirit to die here with honour, in preference to hving 
there with ignominy. Wherefore this very month of Au- 
gust, while milder gales are soothing the ocean, let Emma 
make a voyage to her brother, and take our children, our 
common pledges, to be deposited with him. Let their 
companions be the bishop of Durham and the abbat of 
Peterborough ; I myself will remain here till Christmas, 
and should he send back a favourable answer, I will follow 

On the breaking up of the conference, all obeyed ; they set 
sail for Normandy, while he remained anxiously expecting a 
favourable report. Shortly after he learned from abroad, 
that Richard had received his sister with great affection, and 

188 WILLIA]VI OF MALMESBURY. [b. xi. c. 10. 

that he invited the king also to condescend to become his 
inmate. Ethelred, therefore, going into Normandy, in the 
month of January, felt his distresses soothed by the atten- 
tions of his host. This Richard was son of Richard the 
first, and equalled his father in good fortune and good qua- 
lities; though he certainly surpassed him in heavenly con- 
cerns. He completed the monastery at Feschamp, which his 
father had begun. He was more intent on prayer and tem- 
perance, than you would require in any monk, or hermit. 
He was humble to excess, in order that he might subdue by 
his patience, the petulance of those who attacked him. 
Moreover it is reported, that at night, secretly escaping the 
observation of his servants, he was accustomed to go unat- 
tended to the matins * of the monks, and to continue in prayer 
till day-light. Intent on tliis practice, one night in par- 
ticular, at Feschamp, he was earlier than customary, and 
finding the door shut, he forced it open with unusual vio- 
lence, and disturbed the sleep of the sacristan. He, asto- 
nished at the noise of a person knocking in the dead of 
night, got up, that he might see the author of so bold a 
deed ; and finding only a countryman in appearance, clothed 
in rustic garb, he could not refrain from laying hands on 
him ; and, moved with vehement indignation, he caught hold 
of his hair, and gave this illustrious man a number of severe 
blows, which he bore with incredible patience, and without 
uttering a syllable. The next day, Richard laid his com- 
plaint before the chapter,! and with counterfeited anger, 
summoned the monk to meet him at the town of Argens, 
threatening that, " he would take such vengeance for the 
injury, so that all France should talk of it." On the day 
appointed, while the monk stood by, almost dead with fear, 
he detailed the matter to the nobility, largely exaggerating 
the enormity of the transaction, and keeping the culprit in 
suspense, by crafty objections to what he urged in mitiga- 
tion. Finally, after he had been mercifully judged by the 
nobility, he pardoned him ; and to make his forgiveness more 
acceptable, he annexed all that town, with its appurtenances, 
reported to be abundant in the best wine, to the office of this 
sacristan: saying, " That he was an admirable monk, who 

* Matins were sometimes performed shortly after midnight. 
f It was customary to hold a chapter immediately after primes. 


properly observed his appointed charge, and did not break 
silence, though roused with anger." In the twenty-eighth 
year of his dukedom, he died, having ordered his body to be 
buried at the door of the church, where it would be sub- 
jected to the feet of such as passed by, and to the spouts of 
water which streamed from above. In our time, however, 
WilUam, third abbat of that place, regarding this as dis- 
graceful, removed the long-continued reproach, and taking 
up the body, placed it before the high altar. He had a 
brother, Robert, whom he made archbishop of Rouen, though 
by this he tarnished his reputation. For he, cruelly abusing 
this honour, at first, committed many crimes and many atro- 
cious acts; but growing in years, he certainly wiped off 
some of them by his very liberal almsgiving. After Richard, 
his son of the same name obtained the principality, but lived 
scarcely a^ year. A vague opinion indeed has prevailed, 
that, by the connivance of his brother Robert, whom Richard 
the second begat on Judith, daughter of Conan, earl of 
Brittany, a certain woman, skilled in poisons, took the 
young man off. In atonement for his privity to this trans- 
action he departed for Jerusalem, after the seventh year of 
his earldom; venturing on an undertaking very meritorious 
at that time, by commencing, with few followers, a journey, 
exposed to incursions of barbarians, and strange, by reason 
of the customs of the Saracens. He persevered neverthe- 
less, and did not stop, but safely completed the whole dis- 
tance, and purchasing admission at a high price, with bare 
feet, and full of tears, he worshipped at that glory of the 
Christians, the sepulchre of our Lord. Conciliating the 
favour of God, as we believe, by this labour, on his return 
homewards he ended his days at Nice, a city of Bithynia ; 
cut off, as it is said, by poison. This was administered by 
his servant Ralph, surnamed Mowin, who had wrought him- 
self up to the commission of this crime, from a hope of 
obtaining the dukedom. But on his return to Normandy, 
the matter becoming known to all, he was detested as a 
monster, and retired to perpetual exile. To Robert suc- 
ceeded William, his son, then a child, of whom as I shall 
have to speak hereafter, I shall now return to my narrative. 

In the meantime Sweyn, as I have before related, op- 
pressed England with rapine and with slaughter: the in- 

190 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUEY. [b. ir. & 10. 

habitants were first plundered of their property, and then 
proscribed. In every city it was matter of doubt what 
shoukl be done : if revolt was determined on, they had none 
to take the lead; if submission was made choice of, they 
would have a harsh ruler to deal with. Thus their public 
and private property, together with their hostages, was car- 
ried to the fleet ; as he was not a lawful sovereign, but a 
most cruel tyrant. The Deity, however, was too kind to 
permit England to fluctuate long in such keen distress, for 
the invader died shortly after, on the purification of St. 
Mary,* though it is uncertain by what death. It is reported, 
that while devastating the possessions of St. Edmund, f 
king and martyr, he appeared to him in a vision, and gently 
addressed him on the misery of his people ; that on Sweyn's 
replying insolently, he struck him on the head ; and that, in 
consequence of the blow, he died, as has been siud, imme- 
diately after. The Danes then elected Canute, the son of 
Sweyn, king ; while the Angles, declaring that their natural 
sovereign was dearer to them, if he could conduct himself 
more royally than he had hitherto done, sent for king Ethel- 
red out of Normandy. He despatched Edward, liis son, first, 
to sound the fidelity of the higher orders and the inclination 
of the people, on the spot ; who, when he saw the wishes of 
all tending in his favour, went back in full confidence for his 
father. The king returned, and, being flattered by the joy- 
ful plaudits of the Angles, that he might appear to have 
shaken off his constitutional indolence, he hastened to collect 
an army against Canute, who was at that time in Lindsey, 
where his father had left him with the ships and hostages, 
and was levying fresh troops and horses, that, mustering a 
sufiicient force, he might make a vigorous attack upon his 
enemies unprepared: vowing most severe vengeance, as he 
used to say, on the deserters. But, circumvented by a con- 
trivance similar to his own, he retreated. Escaping at that 
time with much difiiculty, and putting to sea with his re- 
maining forces, he coasted the British ocean from east to 
south, and landed at Sandwich. Here, setting all divine and 
human laws at defiance, he mutilated his hostages, who were 
young men of great nobility and elegance, by depriving them 

* Sweyn died Feb. 3, a. d. 1014. 

f The monastery of St. Edmimdbury. 

A.D. 1015.] COUNCIL AT OXFORD. 191 

of their ears, and nostrils, and some even of their manhood. 
Thus tyrannizing over the innocent, and boasting of the feat, 
he returned to his own country. In the same year the sea- 
flood, which the Greeks call Euripus, and we Ledo,* rose to 
so wonderful a height, that none like it was recollected in 
the memory of man, for it overflowed the villages, and de- 
stroyed their inhabitants, for many miles. 

The year following a grand council of Danes and English, 
was assembled at Oxford, where the king commanded two 
of the noblest Danes, Sigeferth, and Morcar, accused of 
treachery to him by the impeachment of the traitor Edric, to- 
be put to death. He had lured them, by his sootliing 
expressions, into a chamber, and deprived them, when di'unk 
to excess, of their lives, by his attendants who had been 
prepared for that purpose. The cause of their murder was 
said to be, his unjustifiable desire for their property. Their 
dependants, attempting to revenge the death of their lords by 
arms, were worsted, and driven into the tower of St. 
Frideswide's church at Oxford, where, as they could not be 
dislodged, they were consumed by fire : however, shortly 
after, the foul stain was wiped out by the king's penitence, 
and the sacred place repaired. 1 have read the history of 
this transaction, wliich is deposited in the archives of that 
church. The wife of Sigeferth, a woman remarkable for her 
rank and beauty, was carried prisoner to Malmesbury ; on 
which account, Edmund, the king's son, dissembling his 
intention, took a journey into those parts. Seeing her, he 
became enamoured ; and becoming enamoured, he made her 
his wife ; cautiously keeping their union secret from his 
father, who was as much an object of contempt to his family 
as to strangers. This Edmund was not born of Emma, but 
of some other person, whom fame has left in obscurity. 
With that exception, he was a young man in every respect 
of noble disposition ; of great strength both of mind and 
person, and, on this account, by the English, called 
" Ironside : " he would have skrouded the indolence of his 
father, and the meanness of his mother, by his own con- 
spicuous virtue, could the fates have spared him. Soon after, 
at the instigation of his wife, he asked of his father the 

* He here considers Ledo to imply the spring tide ; but others say it 
means the neap, and express the former by Malina. See Du Cange. 

192 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ir. c. 10. 

possessions of Sigeferth, which were of large extent among 
the Northumbrians, but could not obtain them ; by his own 
exertions, however, he procured them at last, the inhabitants 
of that province willingly submitting to his power. 

The same summer Canute, having settled his affairs in 
Denmark, and entered into alliance with the neighbouring 
kings, came to England, determined to subdue it or perish in 
the attempt. Proceeding from Sandwich into Kent, and 
thence into West Saxony, he laid every thing .waste with fire 
and slaughter, while the king was lying sick at Cosham.* 
Edmund indeed attempted to oppose him, but being thwarted 
by Edric, he placed his forces in a secure situation. Edric, 
however, thinking it unnecessary longer to dissemble, but 
that he might, now, openly throw off the mask, revolted to 
Canute with forty ships, and all West Saxony following his 
example, delivered hostages, and gave up their arms. Yet 
the Mercians repeatedly assembling stood forward to resist : 
and if the king would but come, and command whither they 
were to march, and bring with him the leading men of 
London, they were ready to shed their blood for their 
country. But he, accustomed to commit his safety to 
fortifications, and not to attack the enemy, remained in 
London ; never venturing out, for fear, as he said, of 
traitors. On the contrary, Canute was gaining towns and 
villages over to his party ; and was never unemployed ; for 
he held consultations by night, and fought battles by day. 
Edmund, after long deliberation, esteeming it best, in such 
an emergency, to recover, if possible, the revolted cities by 
arms, brought over Utred, an earl, on the other side of the 
Humber, to the same sentiments. They imagined too, tlxat 
such cities as were yet doubtful which side to take, would 
determine at once, if they would only inflict signal vengeance 
on those which had revolted. But Canute, possessed of equal 
penetration, circumvented them by a similiar contrivance. 
Giving over the West Saxons and that part of Mercia which 
he had subjugated, to the custody of his generals, he 
proceeded himself against the Northumbrians ; and, by 
depopulating the country, compelled Utred to retire, to 
defend his own possessions ; and notwithstanding he sur- 
rendered himself, yet with inhuman levity he ordered him to 
* Corsham, in Wiltshire ? 


be put to death. His earldom was given to Eric, whom 
Canute afterwards expelled England, because he pretended 
to equal power with himself. Thus all being subdued, he 
ceased not pursuing Edmund, who was gradually retreating, 
till he heard that he was at London with his father. Canute 
then remained quiet till after Easter, that he might attack 
the city with all his forces. But the death of Ethelred 
preceded the attempt : for in the beginning of Lent, on St. 
Gregory's day,* he breathed out a life destined only to 
labours and misery : he lies buried at St. Paul's in London. 
The citizens immediately proclaimed Edmund king, who, 
mustering an army, routed the Danes at Penn,f near 
Gillingham, about Rogation-day. After the festival of St. 
John, engaging them again at Sceorstan, J he retired from a 
drawn-battle. The English had begun to give way, at the 
instance of Edric ; who being on the adversaries' side, and 
holding in his hand a sword stained with the blcod of a 
fellow whom he had dexterously slain, exclaimed, "Fly. 
wretches ! fly ! behold, your king was slain by this sword I " 
The Angles would have fled immediately, had not the king, 
apprised of this circumstance, proceeded to an eminence, and 
taking off his helmet, shown his face to his comrades. Then 
brandishing a dart with all his forces, he launched it at Edric ; 
but being seen, and avoided, it missed him, and struck a 
soldier standing near ; and so great was its violence, that it 
even transfixed a second. Night put a stop to the battle, the 
hostile armies retreating as if by mutual consent, though the 
English had well-nigh obtained the victory. 

After this the sentiments of the West Saxons changed, 
and they acknowledged their lawful sovereign. Edmund 
proceeded to London, that he might liberate those deserving 
citizens whom a party of the enemy had blocked up imme- 
diately after his departure ; moreover they had surrounded 
the whole city, on the parts not washed by the river Thames, 
with a trench ; and many men lost their lives on both sides 
in the skirmishes. Hearing of the king's approach, they 

* March 12th, but the Saxon Chronicle says St. George's day, 23d April. 

f In Somersetshire ? 

J Sceorstan is conjectured to be near Chipping Norton. — Sharp. Sup- 
posed to be a stone which divided the four counties of Oxford, Glouccstei^ 
Worcester and Warwick. — Hardy. 

194 WILLIAM OP MALMESBURY. Lb. n. c. la 

precipitately took to flight ; while he pursuing directly, and 
passing the ford called Brentford, routed them with great 
slaughter. The remaining multitude which were with 
Canute, while Edmund was relaxing a little and getting his 
affairs in order, again laid siege to London both on the land 
and river side ; but being nobly repulsed by the citizens, they 
wreaked their anger on the neighbouring province of Mercia, 
laying waste the towns and villages, with plunder, fire, and 
slaughter. The best of the spoil was conveyed to their ships 
assembled in the Medway ; which river flowing by the city 
of Rochester, washes its fair walls with a strong and rapid 
current. They were attacked and driven hence also by the 
king in person ; who suddenly seizing the ford, which I have 
before mentioned at Brentford, * dispersed them with signal 

While Edmund was preparing to pursue, and utterly de- 
stroy the last remains of these plunderers, he was prevented 
by the crafty and abandoned Edi'ic, who had again insinu- 
ated himself into his good graces ; for he had come over to 
Edmund, at the instigation of Canute, that he might betray 
his designs. Had the king only persevered, this would have 
been the last day for the Danes ; but misled by the insinua- 
tions of a traitor, who affirmed that the enemy would make 
no farther attempt, he brought swift destruction upon him- 
self, and the whole of England. Being thus allowed to 
escape, they again assembled ; attacked the East Angles, 
and, at Assandun,f compelled the king himself, who came 
to their assistance, to retreat. Here again, the person I am 
ashamed to mention so frequently, designedly gave the first 
example of flight. A small number, who, mindful of their 
former fame, and encouraging each other, had formed a com- 
pact body, were cut off to a man. On this field of battle 
Canute gained the kingdom ; the glory of the Angles fell ; 
and the whole flower of the country withered. Amongst 
these was Ulfkytel, earl of East Anglia, who had gained 
immortal honour in the time of Sweyn, when first attacking 
the pirates, he showed that they might be overcome: here 

* He passed the Thames at Brentford, followed them into Kent, and 
defeated them at Aylesford. Saxon Chron. 

t Thought to be either Assingdon, Ashdown in Essex, or Aston in Berk- 


fell, too, the chief men of the day, both bishops and abbats, 
Edmund flying hence almost alone, came to Gloucester, in 
order that he might there re-assemble his forces, and attack 
the enemy, indolent, as he supposed, from their recent vic- 
tory. Nor was Canute wanting in courage to pursue the 
fugitive. When everything was ready for battle, Edmund 
demanded a single combat ; that two individuals might not, 
for the lust of dominion, be stained with the blood of so 
many subjects, when they might try their fortune without 
the destruction of their faithful adherents: and observing, 
that it must redound greatly to the credit of either to have 
obtained so vast a dominion at his own personal peril. But 
Canute refused this proposition altogether; affirming that 
his courage was surpassing, but that he was apprehensive 
of trusting his diminutive person against so bulky an an- 
tagonist : wherefore, as both had equal pretensions to the 
kingdom, since the father of either of them had possessed 
it, it was consistent with prudence that they should lay 
aside their animosity, and divide England.* This propo- 
sition was adopted by either army, and confirmed with much 
applause, both for its equity and its beneficent regard to the 
repose of the people who were worn out with continual suf- 
fering. In consequence, Edmund, overcome by the general 
clamour, made peace, and entered into treaty with Canute, 
retaining West Saxony himself and giving Mercia to the 
other. He died soon after on the festival of St. Andrew,f 
though by what mischance is not known, and was buried at 
Glastonbury near his grandfather Edgar. Fame asperses 
Edric, as having, through regard for Canute, compassed his 
death by means of his servants : reporting that there were 
two attendants on the king to whom he had committed the 
entire care of his person, and, that Edric seducing them by 
promises, at length made them his accomplices, though at 
first they were struck with horror at the enormity of the 
crime ; and that, at his suggestion, they drove an iron hook 
into his posteriors, as he was sitting down for a necessary 

* Henry Huntingdon says they actually engaged, and that Canute find- 
ing himself likely to be worsted, proposed the division. — H. Hunt. 1. 6. 

f " Florence of Worcester and the Saxon Chronicle place his death on 
the 30th of November, 1016. Florence, however, adds the year of the 
iudiction, which corresponds with a.d. 1017." — Hardy. 

o 2 

196 •VVILLLIM OF MALMESBURT. [b. n. u. 11. 

purpose. Edwin, his brother on the mother's side, a youth 
of amiable disposition, was driven from England bj Edric, 
at the command of Canute, and suffering extremely for a 
considerable time, "both by sea and land," his body, as is 
often the case, became affected by the anxiety of his mind, 
and he died in England, where he lay concealed after a 
clandestine return, and lies buried at Tavistock. His sons, 
Edwy and Edward, were sent to the king of Sweden to be 
put to death ; but being preserved by his mercy, they went 
to the king of Hungary, where, after being kindly treated 
for a time, the elder died ; and the younger married Agatha, 
the sister of the queen. His brothers by Emma, Alfi-ed and 
Edward, lay securely concealed in Normandy for the Avhole 
time that Canute lived. 

I find that their uncle Richard took no steps to restore 
them to their country : on the contrary, he married his sister 
Emma to the enemy and invader ; and it may be difficult to 
say, whether to the greater ignominy of him who bestowed 
her, or of the woman who consented to share the nuptial 
cx)uch of that man who had so cruelly molested her husband, 
and had driven her children into exile. Robert, however, 
whom we have so frequently before mentioned as having 
gone to Jerusalem, assembling a fleet and embarking sol- 
diers, made ready an expedition, boasting that he would 
set the crown on the heads of his grand-nephews ; and 
doubtlessly he would have made good his assertion, had 
not, as we have heard from our ancestors, an adverse wind 
constantly opposed him : but assuredly this was by the hid- 
den counsel of God, in whose disposal are the powers of all 
kingdoms. The remains of the vessels, decayed through 
length of time, were still to be seen at Rouen in our days. 


Of king Canute, [a.d. 1017— 1031.] 

Canute began to reign in the year of our Lord 1017, and 
reigned twenty years. Though he obtained the sovereignty 
unjustly, yet he conducted himself with great afilxbility and 
firmness. At his entrance on the government, dividing the 
kingdom into four parts, himself took the West Saxons, Edric 
the Mercians, Thurkill the East Angles, and Eric the North- 

A.D. 1017.J OF KING CANUTE. 1 97 

umbrians. His first care was to punish the murderers of 
Edmund, who had, under expectation of great recompence, 
acknowledged the whole circumstances : he concealed them 
for a time, and then brought them forward in a large assem- 
bly of the people, where thej" confessed the mode of their 
attack upon him, and were immediately ordered to execution. 
The same year, Edric, whom words are wanting to stigma- 
tize as he deserved, being, by the king's command, entrapped 
in the same snare which he had so frequently laid for others, 
breathed out his abominable spirit to hell. For a quarrel 
arising, while they were angrily discoursing, Edric, relying 
on the credit of liis services, and amicably, as it were, re- 
proaching the king, said, " I first deserted Edmund for your 
sake, and afterwards even despatched him in consequence of 
my engagements to you." At this expression the counte- 
nance of Canute changed with indignation, and he instantly 
pronounced this sentence : " Thou shalt die," said he, " and 
justly ; since thou art guilty of treason both to God and me, 
by having killed thy own sovereign, and my sworn brother ; 
thy blood be upon thy head, because thy mouth hath spoken 
against thee, and thou hast lifted thy hand against the Lord's 
anointed :" and immediately, that no tumult might be excited, 
the traitor was strangled in the chamber where they sat, and 
thrown out of the window into the river Thames : thus meet- 
ing the just reward of his perfidy. In process of time, as 
opportunities occurred, Thurkill and Eric were driven out of 
the kingdom, and sought their native land. The first, who 
had been the instigator of the murder of St. Elphege, was 
killed by the chiefs the moment he touched the Danish shore.* 
When all England, by these means, became subject to Canute 
alone, he began to conciliate the Angles with unceasing dili- 
gence ; allowing them equal rights with the Danes, in their 
assemblies, councils, and armies : on which account, as I 
have before observed, he sent for the wife of the late king out 
of Normandy, that, while they were paying obedience to their 
accustomed sovereign, they should the less repine at the do- 
minion of the Danes. Another design he had in view by 
this, was, to acquire favour with Richard ; who would think 

* The Danish chiefs were apprehensive that he would excite commo- 
tions in their country ; in consequence of which he was ultimately de- 
spatched. — Ang. Sac. ii. 144. 


little of his nephews, so long as he supposed he might have 
others by Canute. He repaired, throughout England, the 
monasteries, which had been partly injured, and partly de- 
stroyed by the military incursions of himself, or of his father j 
he built churches in all the places where he had fought, and 
more particularly at Assingdon, and appointed ministers to 
them, who, through the succeeding revolutions of ages, might 
pray to God for the souls of the persons there slain. At the 
consecration of this edifice, himself was present, and the 
English and Danish nobility made their offerings : it is now, 
according to report, an ordinary church, under the care of a 
parish priest. Over the body of the most holy Edmund, 
whom the Danes of former times had killed, he built a church 
with princely magnificence, appointed to it an abbat, and 
monks : and conferred on it many large estates. The great- 
ness of his donation, yet entire, stands proudly eminent at the 
present day ; for that place surpasses almost all the monas- 
teries of England. He took up, with his own hands, the 
body of St. Elphege, which had been buried at St. Paul's in 
London, and sending it to Canterbury, honoured it with due 
regard. Thus anxious to atone for the offences of himself or 
of his predecessors, perhaps he wiped away the foul stain of 
his former crimes with God : certainly he did so with man. 
At Winchester, he displayed all the magnificence of his liber- 
ality : here he gave so largely, that the quantity of precious 
metals astonished the minds of strangers ; and the glittering 
of jewels dazzled the eyes of the beholders : this was at 
Emma's suggestion, who with pious prodigality exhausted 
his treasures in works of this kind, while he was meditating 
fierce attacks on foreign lands. For his valour, incapable of 
rest, and not contented with Denmark, which he held from 
his father, and England, which he possessed by right of war, 
transferred its rage against the Swedes. These people are 
contiguous to the Danes, and had excited the displeasure of 
Canute by their ceaseless hostility. At first he fell into an 
ambush, and lost many of his people, but afterwards recruit- 
ing his strength, he routed his opponents, and brought the 
kings of that nation, Ulf and Eglaf, to terms of peace. The 
English, at the instance of earl Godwin, behaved nobly in 
this conflict. He exhorted them, not to forget their ancient 
fame, but clearly to display their valour to their new lord : 

A.D. 1030, 1031. J Canute's epistle, 199 

telling them, that it must be imputed to fortune, that they 
had formerly been conquered by him, but it would be as- 
cribed to their courage, if they overcame those who had over- 
come him. In consequence, the English put forth all their 
strength, and gaining the victory, obtained an earldom for 
their commander, and honour for themselves. Thence, on 
his return home, he entirely subdued the kingdom of Nor- 
way, putting Olave, its king, to flight ; who, the year fol- 
lowing, returning v/ith a small party into his kingdom, to 
try the inclinations of the inhabitants, found them faithless, 
and was slain with his adherents. 

In the fifteenth year of his reign, Canute went to Rome, 
and after remaining there some time, and atoning for his 
crimes by giving alms to the several churches, he sailed back 
to England.* Soon after, with little difficulty, he subdued 
Scotland, then in a state of rebellion, and Malcolm her king, 
by leading an army thither. I trust it will not appear use- 
less, if I subjoin the epistle, which he transmitted to the 
English, on liis departure from Rome, by the hands of Living, 
abbat of Tavistock, and afterwards bishop of Crediton, to ex- 
empHfy his reformation of life, and his princely magnificence. 

" Canute, king of all England, Denmark, Norway, and 
part of the Swedes, to Ethelnoth, metropolitan, and Elfric 
archbishop of York, and to all bishops, iiobles, and to the 
whole nation of the English high arid low, health. I notify 
to you, that I have lately been to Rome, to pray for the for- 
giveness of my sins ; for the safety of my dominions, and of 
the people under my government. I had long since vowed 
such a journey to God, but, hitherto hindered by the affairs 
of my kingdom, and other causes preventing, I was unable to 
accomplish it sooner. I now return thanks most humbly to 
my Almighty God, for suffering me, in my lifetime, to ap- 
proach the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all the holy 
saints within and without the city of Rome, wherever I could 
discover them, and there, present, to worship and adore ac- 
cording to my desire. I have been the more diligent in the 
performance of this, because I have learned from the wise, 
that St. Peter, the apostle, has received from God, great 
power in binding and in loosing : that he carries the key of 
the kingdom of heaven ; and consequently I have judged 
* He returned by the way of Denmark. Florence of Worcester. 

^06 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [v. ir. c. 11. 

it matter of special importance to seek his infiuoncs with 
God. Be it known to you, that at the solemnity of Easter, 
a great assembly of nobles was present with pope John, 
and the emperor Conrad, that is to say, all the princes 
of the nations from mount Garganus* to the neighbour- 
ing sea. All these received me with honour, and pre- 
sented me with magnificent gifts. But more especially was 
I honoured by the emperor, with various gifts and offerings, in 
gold and silver vessels, and palls and costly garments. More- 
over, I spoke with the emperor himself, and the sovereign 
pope and the nobles who were there, concerning the wants of 
all my people, English as well as Danes ; observing that 
there ought to be granted to them more equitable regulations, 
and greater security on their passage to Rome ; that they 
should not be impeded by so many barriersf on the road, nor 
harassed with unjust exactions. The emperor assented to 
my request, as did Rodolph the king, who has the chief 
dominion over those barriers ; and all the princes confirmed 
by an edict, that my subjects, traders, as well as those who 
went on a religious account, should peaceably go and return 
from Rome, without any molestation from warders of bar- 
riers, or tax-gatherers. Again I complained before the pope, 
and expressed my high displeasure, that my archbishops were 
oppressed by the immense sum of money which is demanded 
from them when seeking, according to custom, the apostolical 
residence to receive the pall : and it was determined that it 
should be so no longer. Moreover, all things which I re- 
quested for the advantage of my kingdom, from the sovereign 
pope, and the emperor, and king Rodolph, and the other 
princes, through whose territories our road to Rome is 
situated, they have freely granted, and confirmed by oath, 
under the attestation of four archbishops, and twenty bishops, 
and an innumerable multitude of dukes and nobles who 
were present. Wherefore I give most hearty thanks to God 
Almighty, for having successfully completed all that I had 
wished, in the manner I had designed, and fully satisfied my 
intentions. Be it known then, that since I have vowed to 
God himself, henceforward to reform my life in all things, 

* St. Angelo in Calabria. 

•j" The several princes, through whose territories their passage lay, exacted 
large sums for permission to pass ; apparently in the defiles of the Alps. 

A. D. 1031.] Canute's epistle. 201 

and justly, and piouslj fo govern the kingdoms and the 
people subject to me, and to maintain equal justice in all 
things ; and have determined, through God's assistance, to 
rectify any thing hitherto unjustly done, either through the 
intemperance of my youth, or through negligence ; therefore 
T call to witness, and command my counsellors, to whom I 
have entrusted the counsels of the kingdom, that they by no 
means, either through fear of myself, or favour to any power- 
ful person, suffer, henceforth, any injustice, or cause such, to 
be done in all my kingdom. Moreover, I command all 
sheriffs, or governors throughout my whole kingdom, as they 
tender my affection, or their own safety, not to commit in- 
justice towards any man, rich or poor, but to allow all, noble 
and ignoble, alike to enjoy impartial law, from which they 
are never to deviate, either on account of royal favour, the 
person of any powerful man, or for the sake of amassing 
money for myself : for I have no need to accumulate money 
by unjust exaction. Be it known to you therefore, that re- 
turning by the same way that I went, I am now going to 
Denmark, through the advice of all the Danes, to make peace 
and firm treaty with those nations, who were desirous, had it 
been possible, to deprive me both of life and of sovereignty : 
this, however, they were not able to perform, God, who by 
his kindness preserves me in my kingdom and in my honour, 
and destroys the power of all my adversaries, bringing their 
strength to nought. Moreover, when I have established 
peace with the surrounding nations, and put all our sove- 
reignty here in the East in tranquil order, so that there 
shall be no fear of war or enmity on any side, I intend 
coming to England, as early in the summer as I shall be able 
to get my fleet prepared. I have sent this epistle before me, 
in order that my people may rejoice at my prosperity ; be- 
cause, a? yourselves know, I have never spared, nor will I 
spare, either myself or my pains for the needful service of 
my whole people. I now therefore adjure all my bishops, 
and governors, throughout my kingdom, by the fidelity they 
owe to God and me, to take care that, before I come to Eng- 
land, all dues owing by ancient custom be discharged : that 
is to say, plough-alms,* the tenth of animals born in the 

* A penny for every plough, that is, for as much land as a plough could 

202 WILLIAM OF MALMESIiURY. Lb. ii. c 11. 

current year,* and the pence owing to Rome for St. Peter, 
whether from cities or villages : and in the middle of August, 
the tenth of the produce of the earth : and on the festival of 
St. Martin, the first fruits of seeds, to the church of the 
parish where each one resides, which is called in English 
* Circscet.'"!' If these and such like things are not paid be- 
fore I come to England, all who shall have ofiended will 
incur the penalty of a royal mulct,J to be exacted without 
remission, according to law." Nor was this declaration with- 
out eifect ; for he commanded all the laws which had been 
enacted by ancient kings, and chiefly by his predecessor 
Ethelred, to be observed for ever, under the penalty of a 
royal mulct : in the observance of which, § the custom even 
at the present day, in the time of good kings, is to swear by 
the name of king Edward, not that he indeed appointed, but 
that he observed them. 

At that time there were in England very great and learned 
men, the principal of whom was Ethelnoth, archbishop after 
Living. He was appointed primate from being dean,|| and 
performed many works truly worthy to be recorded : en- 
couraging even the king himself in his good actions by the 
authority of his sanctity, and restraining him in his excesses : 
he first exalted the archiepiscopal cathedral by the presence 
of the body of St. Elphege, and afterwards personally at 
Rome, restored it to its pristine dignity.^ Returning home, 
he transmitted to Coventry the arm of St. Augustine** the 
teacher, which he had purchased at Pavia, for an hundred 
talents of silver, and a talent of gold. Moreover, Canute 
took a journey to the church of Glastonbury, that he might 
visit the remains of his brother Edmund, as he used to call 

till, to be distributed to the poor : it Avas payable in fifteen days from 
Easter. * Payable at Whitsuntide. 

t A certain quantity of com. Though it also implies, occasionally, other 
kinds of offerings. 

t A forfeiture to the kmg, but varying according to the nature of the 

^ This seems to be the meaning : he has probably in view the practice 
of the early princes of the Norman line, who swore to observe the laws of 
king Edward. || Dean of Canterbury. 

^ Tliis appears merely intended to express that he received the pall 
from the pope. The two transactions are inverted ; he went to Rome 
A.D. 1021, and translated Elphege 's body a.d. 1023. 

* * Augustine, bishop of Hippo. 


him ; and praying over his tomb, he presented a pall, inter- 
woven, as it appeared, with party-coloured figures of pea- 
cocks. Near the king stood the before-named Ethelnoth, 
who was the seventh monk of Glastonbury that had become 
archbishop of Canterbury : first Berthwald : second Athelm, 
first bishop of Wells : third his nephew Dunstan : fourth 
Ethelgar, first abbat of the New-minster at Winchester, 
and then bishop of Chichester :* fifth Siric, who, when he 
was made archbishop, gave to this his nursing-mother seven 
palls, with which, i pon his anniversary, the whole ancient 
church is ornamented : sixth Elphege, who from prior of 
Glastonbury was, first, made abbat of Bath, and then bishop 
of Winchester : seventh Ethelnoth, who upon showing to 
the king the immunities of predecessors, asked, and obtained 
from the king's own hand a confirmation of them, which was 
to the following effect. 

" The Lord reigning for evermore, who disposes and 
governs all things by his unspeakable power, who wonder- 
fully determines the changes of times and of men, and justly 
brings them to an uncertain end, according to his pleasure ; 
and who from the secret mysteries of nature mercifully 
teaches us, how lasting, instead of fleeting and transitory, 
kingdoms are to be obtained by the assistance of God : where- 
fore I Canute king of England, and governor and ruler of 
the adjacent nations, by the counsel and decree of our arch- 
bishop Ethelnoth, and of all the priests of God, and by the 
advice of our nobility, do, for the love of heaven, and the 
pardon of my sins, and the remission of the transgressions of 
my brother, king Edmund, grant to the church of the holy 
mother of God, Mary, at Glastonbury, its rights and customs 
throughout my kingdom, and all forfeitures throughout its 
possessions, and that its lands shall be free from all claim 
and vexation as my own are. Moreover, I inhibit more 
especially, by the authority of the Almighty Father, Son, 
and Holy Spirit, and the curse of the eternal Virgin, and so 
command it to be observed by the judges and primates of 
my kingdom as they tender their safety, every person, be 
they of what order or dignity they may, from entering, on 

* He was bishop of Selsey, which see was afterwards removed to 

204 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [n. ii. c. 11. 

anj account, that island ;* but all causes, ecclesiastical as 
well as secular, shall await the sole judgment of the abbat 
and convent, in like manner as my predecessors have ratified 
and confirmed bj charters ; that is to say, Kentwin, Ina, 
Cuthred, Alfred, Edward, Ethelred, Athelstan, the most 
glorious Edmund, and the equally glorious Edgar. And 
should any one hereafter endeavour, on any occasion, to 
break in upon, or make void the enactment of this grant, let 
him be driven from the communion of the righteous by the 
fan of the last judgment ; but should any person endeavour 
diligently, with benevolent intention, to perform these things, 
to approve, and defend them, may God increase his portion 
in the land of the living, through the intercession of the most 
holy mother of God, Mary, and the rest of the saints. The 
grant of this immunity was Avritten and published in the 
Wooden Church, in the presence of king Canute, in the year 
of our Lord 1032, the second indiction." 

By the advice of the said archbishop also, the king, send- 
ing money to foreign churches, very much enriched Chartres, 
where at that time flourished bishop Fulbert, most renowned 
for sanctity and learning. Who, among other demonstrations 
of his diligence, very magnificently completed the church of 
our lady St. Mary, the foundations of which he had laid : and 
which moreover, in his zeal to do every thing he could for its 
honour, he rendered celebrated by many musical modulations. 
The man who has heard his chants, breathing only celestial 
vows, is best able to conceive the love he manifested in 
honour of the Virgin. Among his other works, a volume of 
epistles is extant ; in one of which,! he thanks that most 
magnificent king Canute, for pouring out the bowels of his 
generosity in donations to the church of Chartres. 

In the fifteenth year of Canute's reign, Robert king of 
France, of whom we have before briefly spoken, departed 
this life : a man so much given to alms, that when, on festi- 
val days, he was either dressing, or putting off the royal 
robes, if he had nothing else at hand, he would give even 

* The whole country round Glastonbury is flat and marshy, bearing evi- 
dent marks of having formerly been covered by water. 

t "See the letter of Fulbert to king Canute (an. 1020 aut 1021.) 
No. xliv., p. 466. tom, x. Rec. des Hist, de la France. Fulberti Camot, 
Episc. Op. Var. 8vo. par. 1608. Epist. xcvii. p. 92." — Hardy. 



these to the poor, if his attendants did not purposely dnve 
away the needy who were importuning him. He had two 
sons, Odo, and Henry : the elder, Odo,* was dull : the other 
crafty and impetuous. Each parent had severally divided 
their affections on their children : the father loved the first- 
born, often saying that he should succeed him : the mother 
regarded the younger, to whom the sovereignty was justly 
due, if not for his age, yet certainly for his ability. It hap- 
pened, as women are persevering in their designs, that she 
did not cease until, by means of presents, and large promises, 
she had gotten to her side all the chief nobility Avho are sub- 
ject to the power of France. In consequence, Henry, chiefly 
through the asssistance of Robert the Norman, was crowned 
ere his fjither had well breathed his last. Mindful of this 
kindness, when, as I before related, Robert went to Jerusa- 
lem, Henry most strenuously espoused the cause of William, 
his son, then a youth, against those who attempted to throw 
off his yoke. In the meantime Canute, finishing his earthly 
career, died at Shaftesbury, and was buried at Winchester. 


Of king Harold and Hardecanute. [a.d. 1036—1042.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 1036,t Harold, whom 
fame I reported to be the son of Canute, by the daughter of 
earl Eli'elm, succeeded, and reigned four years and as many 
months. He was elected by the Danes and the citizens of 
London, who, from long intercourse with these barbarians, 
had almost entirely adopted their customs. The English 
resisted for a long time, rather wishing to have one of the 
sons of Ethelred, who were then in Normandy, or else Har- 
decanute, the son of Canute by Emma, at that time in Den- 

* Though several French chronicles give nearly the same account of 
Odo being the elder brother, the learned editors of the Recueil des Histo- 
riens de France insist that the assertion is false. 

f " After the death of Canute, the kingdom was at first divided : the 
northern part fell to the share of Harold, and Hardecanute obtained the 
fiouthern division. In the year 1037, Harold was chosen to reign over all 
England, (Flor. Wigom.)" — Hardy. 

J This he notices, because there was a suspicion that she had imposed 
the children of a priest and of a cobbler on Canute as her owti. V. Flor. 

206 WILLIAM OP MALMESBURY. [b. ti. c. 12. 

mark, for their king. The greatest stickler for justice, at 
this juncture, was earl Godwin ; who professing liimself the 
defender of the fatherless, and having queen Emma and the 
royal treasures in his custody, for some time restrained his 
opponents by the power of his name : but at last, overcome 
by numbers and by violence, he was obliged to give way. 
Harold, secure in his sovereignty, drove his mother-in-law 
into exile. Not thinking she should be safe in Normandy, 
where, her brother and nephews being dead, disgust at the 
rule of a deserted orphan created great disorders, she passed 
over into Flanders, to earl Baldwin, a man of tried integ- 
rity : who afterwards, when king Henry died leaving a 
young son, PhiHp, for some years nobly governed the king- 
dom of France, and faithfully restored it to him, for he had 
married his aunt, when he came of age. Emma passed 
three years securely under the protection of this man, at 
the expiration of which, Harold dying at Oxford, in the 
month of April,* was buried at Westminster. The Danes 
and the English then uniting in one common sentiment of 
sending for Hardecanute, he came, by way of Normandy, 
into England in the month of August. For Ethelred's sons 
were held in contempt nearly by all, more from the recollec- 
tion of their father's indolence, than the power of the Danes. 
Hardecanute, reigning two years except ten days, lost his 
life amid his cups at Lambeth nigh London, and was buried 
near his father at Winchester: a young man who evinced 
great affection towards his brother and sister. For his bro- 
ther, Edward, wearied with continual wandering, revisiting 
his native land in the hope of fraternal kindness, was re- 
ceived by him with open arms, and entertained most affec- 
tionately. He was rash, however, in other respects, and at 
the instigation of Elfric, archbishop of York, and of others 
whom I am loath to name, he ordered the dead body of 
Harold to be dug up, the head to be cut off, and thrown 
into the Thames, a pitiable spectacle to men ! but it was 
dragged up again in a fisherman's net, and buried in the 
cemetery of the Danes at London. He imposed a rigid, and 
intolerable tribute upon England, in order that he might 
pay, according to his promise, twenty marks to the soldiers 

♦ The Saxon Chronicle says March 17: it also makes Hardecanute 
arrive on the 1 8th of June. 


of each of his vessels. While this was harshly levied 
throughout the kingdom, two of the collectors, discharging 
their office rather too rigorously, were killed by the citizens 
of Worcester ; upon which, burning and depopulating the 
city by means of his commanders, and plundering the pro- 
perty of the citizens, he cast a blemish on his fame and 
diminished the love of his subjects. But here I will not 
pass over in silence, what tattlers report of Alfred the first- 
born of Ethelred. Doubtful what to do between Harold's 
death and the arrival of Hardecanute, he came into the 
kingdom, and was deprived of his eyes by the treachery of 
his countrymen, and chiefly of Godwin, at Gillingham : from 
thence being sent to the monastery of Ely, he supported, for 
a little time, a wretched subsistence upon homely food ; all 
his companions, with the exception of the tenth, being be- 
headed : for by lot every tenth man was saved.* I have 
mentioned these circumstances, because such is the report ; 
but as the Chronicles are silent, I do not assert them for 
fact. For this reason, Hardecanute, enraged against Living, 
bishop of Crediton, whom public opinion pointed out as 
author of the transaction, expelled him from his see : but, 
soothed with money, he restored him within the year. 
Looking angrily too upon Godwin, he obliged him to clear 
himself by oath; but he, to recover his favour entirely, 
added to his plighted oath a present of the most rich and 
beautiful kind ; it was a ship beaked with gold, having 
eighty soldiers on board, who had two bracelets on either 
arm, each weighing sixteen ounces of gold; on their heads 
were gilt helmets ; on their left shoulder they carried a Dan- 
ish axe, with an iron spear in their right hand ; and, not to 
enumerate everything, they were equipped with such arms, 
as that splendour vying with terror, might conceal the steel 
beneath the gold. But farther, as I had begun to relate, his 
sister Gunhilda, the daughter of Canute by Emma, a young 
woman of exquisite beauty, who was sighed for, but not 
obtained, by many lovers in her father's time, was by 
Hardecanute given in marriage to Henry, emperor of the 

* The printed Saxon Chronicle has no mention of this transaction, hut 
there are two manuscripts which relate it. The story appears true in the 
main, but it is told with so much variety of time, place, &c., that it is diffi- 
cult to ascertain its real circumstances. See MSS. Cott. Tib. b. i. and It. 

208 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. [c. ii. c. 12. 

Germans. The splendour of the nuptial pageant was very- 
striking, and is even in our times frequently sung in ballads 
about the streets : where while this renowned lady was being 
conducted to the ship, all the nobility of England were 
crowding around and contributing to her charges whatever 
was contained in the general purse, or royal treasury. Pro- 
ceeding in this manner to her husband, she cherished for a 
long time the conjugal tie; at length being accused of adul- 
tery, she opposed in single combat to her accuser, a man of 
gigantic size, a young lad of her brother's* establishment, 
whom she had brought from England, while her other at- 
tendants held back in cowardly apprehension. When, there- 
fore, they engaged, the impeacher, through the miraculous 
interposition of God, was worsted, by being ham-strung. 
Gunhilda, exulting at her unexpected success, renounced the 
marriage contract with her husband; nor could she be in- 
duced either by threats or by endearments again to share his 
bed: but taking the veil of a nun, she calmly grew old in 
the service of God. 

This emperor possessed many and great virtues; and 
neai'ly surpassed in military skill all his predecessors: so 
much so, that he subdued the Vindelici and the Leutici,f 
and the other nations bordering on the Suevi, who alone, 
even to the present day, lust after pagan superstitions : for 
the Saracens and Turks worship God the Creator, looking 
upon Mahomet not as God, but as his prophet. But the 
Vindelici worship fortune, and putting her idol in the most 
eminent situation, they place a horn in her right hand, filled 
with that beverage, made of honey and water, which by a 
Greek term we call " hydromel." St. Jerome proves, in his 
eighteenth book on Isaiah, that the Egyptians and almost 
all the eastern nations do the same. Wherefore on the last 
day of November, sitting round in a circle, they all taste 
it ; and if they find the horn full, they apj)laud with loud 
clamours : because in the ensuing year, plenty with her 

* It seems to mean a page, or personal attendant: some MSS. read 
"alumnus stumi;" apparently the keeper of her starling. There appears 
to have been a sort of romance on this subject. The youth is said to 
have been a dwarf, and therefore named Mimicon : his gigantic adversary 
was Roddingar. V. Matt. West, and Joh. Brompton. 

f These people inhabited the country on and near the southern coast of 
tJie Baltic. 


brimming horn will fulfil their wishes in everything : but 
if it be otherwise, they lament. Henry made these nations 
in such wise tributary to him, that upon every solemnity on 
which he wore his crown, four of their kings were obliged 
to carry a cauldron in which flesh was boiled, upon their 
shoulders, to the kitchen, by means of levers passed through 

Frequently, when disengaged from the turmoils of his 
empire, Henry gave himself up to good fellowship and 
merriment, and was replete with humour ; this may be 
sufficiently proved by two instances. He was so extremely 
fond of his sister, who was a nun, that he never suffered her 
to be from his side, and her chamber was always next his 
own. As he was on a certain time, in consequence of a 
winter remarkable for severe frost and snow, detained for 
a long while in the same place, a certain clerk * about the 
court, became too familiar with the girl, and often passed the 
greatest part of the night in her chamber. And although he 
attempted to conceal his crime by numberless subterfuges, 
yet some one perceived it, for it is difficult not to betray 
guilt either by look or action, and the affiiir becoming 
notorious, the emperor was the only person in ignorance, 
and who still believed his sister to be chaste. On one 
particular night, however, as they were enjoying their fond 
embraces, and continuing their pleasures longer than usual, 
the morning dawned upon them, and behold snow had com- 
pletely covered the ground. The clerk fearing that he should 
be discovered by his track in the snow, persuades his mistress 
to extricate him from his difficulty by carrying him on her 
back. She, regardless of modesty so that she might escape 
exposure, took her paramour on her back, and carried him out 
of the palace. It happened at that moment, that the emperor 
had risen for a necessary purpose, and looking through the 
window of his chamber, beheld the clerk mounted. He was 
stupified at the first sight, but observing still more narrowly, 
he became mute with shame and indignation. While he was 
hesitating whether he should pass over the crime unpunished, 

* Clerk was a general term including every degree of orders, from th« 
bishop do^rnwards to the chanter. A story near similar has hem told of 
the celebrated Eginhard and the daughter of Charlemagne. V. Du Chesne, 
Script. Franc. T. ii. 


210 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. Ln. ii. c. 12. 

or openly reprehend the delinquents, there happened an 
opportunity for him to give a vacant bishopric to the clerk, 
which he did : but at the same time whispered in his ear, 
" Take the bishopric, but be careful you do not let women 
carry you any more." At the same time he gave his sister 
the rule over a company of nuns, " Be an abbess," said he, 
" but carry clerks no longer." Both of them were confused, 
and feeling themselves grievously stricken by so grave an 
injunction, they desisted from a crime which they thouglit 
revealed by God. 

He had also a clergyman about his palace, who abused the 
depth of his learning and the melody of his voice by the 
vicious propensities of the flesh, being extremely attached to 
a girl of bad character, in the town ; with whom having 
passed one festival night, he stood next morning before the 
emperor at mass, with countenance unabashed. The emperor 
conceaUng his knowledge of the transaction, commanded him 
to prepare himself to read the gospel, that he might be 
gratified with the melody of his voice : for he was a deacon. 
Conscious of his crime, he made use of a multitude of 
subterfuges, while the emperor, to try his constancy, still 
pressed him with messages. Refusing, however, to the very 
last, the emperor said, " Since you will not obey me in so 
easy a command, I banish you from the whole of my 
territories." The deacon, yielding to the sentence, departed 
directly. Servants were sent to follow him, and in case he 
should persist in going, to bring him back after he had left 
the city. Gathering, therefore, immediately all his effects 
together, and packing them up, he had already gone a 
considerable distance, when he was brought back, not 
without extreme violence, and placed in the presence of 
Henry, who smiled and said : " You have done well, and I 
applaud your integrity for valuing the fear of God more than 
your country, and regarding the displeasure of heaven more 
than my threats. Accept, therefore, the first bishopric, which 
ghall be vacant in my empire ; only renounce your dishonour- 
able amour." 

As nothing however is lasting in human enjoyments, I 
shall not pass over in silence a certain dreadful portent 
which happened in hi-s time. The monastery of Fulda, in 
Saxony, is celebrated for containing the body of St. Gall, 

A.D. 1042.T henry's beneficence. 211 

and is enriched with very ample territories. The abbat of 
this place furnishes the emperor with sixty thousand 
warriors against his enemies ; and possesses from ancient 
times the privilege of sitting at his right hand on the most 
distinguished festivals. This Henry we are speaking of was 
celebrating Pentecost at Mentz. A little before mass, while 
the seats were preparing in the church, a quarrel arose 
between the attendants of the abbat, and those of the 
archbishop, which of their masters should sit next the 
sovereign : one party alleging the dignity of the prelate, the 
other ancient usage. When words made but Kttle for peace, 
as the Germans and Teutonians possess untractable spirits, 
they came to blows. Some snatched up staves, others threw 
stones, while the rest unsheathed their swords : finally each 
used the weapon that his anger first supplied. Thus furiously 
contending in the church, the pavement soon streamed with 
blood : but the bishops hastening forward, peace was restored 
amid the remains of the contending parties. The church was 
cleansed, and mass performed with joyful sound. But now 
comes the wonder : when the sequence was chanted, and 
the choir paused at that verse, " Thou hast made this day 
glorious : " a voice in the air replied aloud, " I have made 
this day contentious." All the others were motionless with 
horror, but the emperor the more diligently attended to his 
occupation, and perceiving the satisfaction of the enemy : 
" You," said he, " the inventor and also the instigator of all 
wickedness, have made this day contentious and sorrowful to 
the proud ; but we, by the grace of God, who made it 
glorious, will make it gracious to the poor." Beginning ihe^ 
sequence afresh, they implored the grace of the Holy Spirit 
by solemn lamentation. You might suppose he had come 
npon them, for some were singing, others weeping, and all 
beating their breasts. When mass was over, assembling the 
poor by means of his officers, he gave them the whole of the 
entertainment which had been prepared for himself and his 
courtiers : the emperor placing the dishes before them, 
standing at a distance according to the custom of servants, 
and clearing away the fragments. 

In the time of his father, Conrad, he had received a silver 
pipe, such as boys in sport spirt water with, from a certain 
clerk, covenanting to give him a bishopric, when he should 

p 2 

212 WILLIAM OF MAI.MESBURT. [b. ii. c. 12. 

become emperor. This, when he was of man's estate, on his 
application he readily gave to him. Soon after he was 
confined to his bed with severe sickness : his malady 
increasing, he lay for three days insensible and speechless, 
while the vital breath only palpitated in his breast : nor was 
there any other sign of life, than the perception of a small 
degree of breathing, on applying the hand to his nostrils. 
The bishops being present, enjoined a fast for three days, and 
entreated heaven with tears and vows, for the life of the king. 
Recovering by these remedies, as it is right to think, he sent 
for the bishop whom he had so improperly appointed, and 
deposed him by the judgment of a council : confessing, that 
for three whole days he saw malignant demons blowing fire 
upon him through a pipe ; fire so furious that ours in com- 
parison would be deemed a jest, and have no heat : that 
afterwards there came a young man half scorched, bearing a 
golden cup of immense size, full of water ; and that being 
soothed by the sight of him, and bathed by the water, the 
flame was extinguished, and he recovered his health : that 
this young man was St. Laurence, the roof of whose church 
he had restored when gone to decay ; and, among other 
presents, had honoured it with a golden chalice. 

Here many extraordinary things occur, which are reported 
of this man ; for instance, of a stag, which took him on its 
back, when flying from his enemies, and carried him over an 
unfordable river : and some others which I pass by because I 
am unwilling to go beyond the reader's belief. He died when 
he had completed the eighteenth year of his empire, and was 
buried at Spires, which he re-built, and called by that name, 
on the site of the very ancient and ruined Nemetum : his 
epitaph is as follows : 

Caesar, as was tlie world once great, 
Lies here, confin'd in compass straight. 
Hence let each mortal learn his doom ; 
No glory can escape the tomb. 
The flower of empire, erst so gay, 
Falls with its Caesar to decay, 
And all the odours which it gave 
Sink prematurely to the grave. 
The laws which sapient fathers made, 
A listless race had dared evade. 
But thou reforming by the school 
Of Rome, restur'dst the ancient rule. 

A.D. 1042. 1043] EDWAUD THE CONFESSOR. 213 

Nations and regions, wide and far, 
Whom none could subjugate by war, 
Quell'd by thy sword's resistless strife, 
'1^11^ to the arts of civil life. 
What grief severe must Rome engross, 
WidowM at first by Leo's loss, 
And next by Caesar's mournful night, 
Reft of her other shining light ; 
Li\dng, what region did not dread. 
What country not lament thee, dead 1 
So kind to nations once subdued, 
So fierce to the barbarians rude, 
That, those who fear'd not, must bewail, 
And such as griev'd not, fears assail. 
Rome, thy departed glory moan, 
And weep thy luminaries gone. 

This Leo, of whom the epitaph speaks, had been Roman 
pontiff, called to that eminence from being Bruno bishop of 
Spires. He was a man of great and admirable sanctity ; 
and the Romans celebrate many of his miracles. He died 
before Henry, when he had been five years pope. 

CHAP. xm. 

Of St. Edward, son of king Ethelred. [a.d. 1042—1066.] 

In the year of our Lord's incarnation 1042, St. Edward, the 
son of Ethelred, assumed the sovereignty, and held it not 
quite twenty-four years ; he was a man from the simplicity 
of his manners little calculated to govern ; but devoted to 
God, and in consequence directed by him. For while he 
continued to reign, there arose no popular commotions, which 
were not immediately quelled ; no foreign war ; all was calm 
and peaceable both at home and abroad ; which is the more 
an object of wonder, because he conducted himself so mildly, 
that he would not even utter a word of reproach to the mean- 
est person. For when he had once gone out to hunt, and a 
countryman had overturned the standings by which the deer 
are driven into the toils, struck with noble indignation he 
exclaimed, "By God and his mother, I will serve you just 
such a turn, if ever it come in my way." Here was a noble 
mind, who forgot that he was a king, under such circum- 
stances, and could not think himself allowed to injure a man 
even of the lowest condition. Li the meantime, the regard 

214 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. L^- "• c ]3. 

his subjects entertained for him was extreme, as was also the 
fear of foreigners ; for God assisted his simplicity, that he 
might be feared, for he knew not how to be angry. But 
however indolent or unassuming himself might be esteemed, 
he had nobles capable of elevating him to the highest pitch : 
for instance, Siward, earl of the Northumbrians ; who, at his 
command, engaging with Macbeth, the Scottish king, de- 
prived him both of life and of his kingdom, and placed on 
the throne Malcolm, who was the son of the king of Cum- 
bria : * again, Leofric, of Hereford ; he, with liberal regard, 
defended him against the enmity of Godwin, who trusting to 
the consciousness of his own merits, paid little reverence to 
the king. Leofric and his wife Godifa, generous in their 
deeds towards God, built many monasteries, as, Coventry, 
St. Mary's at Stow, Wenlock, Leon, and some others ; to 
the rest he gave ornaments and estates ; to Coventry he con- 
signed his body, with a very large donation of gold and 
silver. Harold too, of the West Saxons, the son of Godwin ; 
who by his abilities destroyed two brothers, kings of the 
Welsh, Rees and Griffin ; and reduced all that barbarous 
country to the state of a province under fealty to the king. 
Nevertheless, there were some things which obscured the 
glory of Edward's times : the monasteries were deprived of 
their monks ; false sentences were passed by depraved men ; 
his mother's property, at his command, was almost entirely 
taken from her. But the injustice of these transactions was 
extenuated by his favourers in the following manner : the 
ruin of the monasteries, and the iniquity of the judges, are 
said to have taken place without his knowledge, through the 
insolence of Godwin and his sons, who used to laugh at the 
easiness of the king : but afterwards, on being apprised of 
this, he severely avenged it by their banishment : his mother 
had for a long time mocked at the needy state of her son, 
nor ever assisted him ; transferring her hereditary hatred of 
the father to the child ; for she had both loved Canute more 
when living, and more commended him when dead : besides, 
accumulating money by every method, she had hoarded it, 
regardless of the poor, to whom she would give nothing, for 
fear of diminisliing her heap. Wherefore that which had 

* This brief allusion to Macbeth rather disproves the hi^orical acciiracy 
of Shakespere. See the Saxon Chronicle. 

A.O. 1043.] EARL GODWIN. 215 

been so unjustly gathered together, was not improperly 
taken away, that it might be of service to the poor, and re- 
plenish the king's exchequer. Though much credit is to be 
attached to those who relate these circumstances, yet I find 
her to have been a religiously-disposed woman, and to have 
expended her property on ornaments for the church of Win- 
chester, and probably upon others.* But to return : Edward 
receiving the mournful intelligence of the death of Hardeca- 
nute, was lost in uncertainty what to do, or whither to be- 
take himself. While he was revolving many things in his 
mind, it occurred as the better plan to submit his situation 
to the opinion of Godwin. To Godwin therefore he sent 
messengers, requesting, that he might in security have a con- 
ference with him. Godwin, though for a long time hesita- 
ting and reflecting, at length assented, and when Edward 
came to him and endeavoured to fall at his feet, he raised 
him up ; and when relating the death of Hardecanute, and 
begging his assistance to effect his return to Normandy, God- 
win made him the greatest promises. He said, it was better 
for him to live with credit in power, than to die ingloriously 
in exile : that he was the son of Ethelred, the grandson of 
Edgar : that the kingdom was his due : that he was come to 
mature age, disciplined by difliculties, conversant in the art 
of well-governing from his years, and knowing, from his for- 
mer poverty, how to feel for the miseries of the people : if he 
thought fit to rely on him, there could be no obstacle ; for 
his authority so preponderated in England, that wherever he 
inclined, there fortune was sure to favour : if he assisted 
him, none would dare to murmur ; and just so was the con- 
trary side of the question : let him then only covenant a firm 
friendship with himself ; undiminished honours for his sons, 
and a marriage with his daughter, and he who was now 
shipwrecked almost of life and hope, and imploring the as • 
sistance of another, should shortly see himself a king. 

There was nothing which Edward would not promise, from 
the exigency of the moment : so, pledging fidelity on both 
sides, he confirmed by oath every thing which was demanded. 
Soon after convening an assembly at Gillingham, Godwin, 

♦ This seems the foundation of the fable of Emma and the Plough- 
shares : as the first apparent promulgator of it was a constant reader and 
amplifier of Malmesbury. See Ric. Divisiensis, MS. C. C. C. Cant. No. 339. 

216 AVILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ir c. 13, 

unfolding his reasons, caused liim to be received as king, and 
homage was paid to him by all. He was a man of ready wit, 
and spoke fluently in the vernacular tongue ; powerful in 
speech, powerful in bringing over the people to whatever he 
desired. Some yielded to his authority ; some were influ- 
enced by presents ; others admitted the right of Edward ; 
and the few who resisted in defiance of justice and equity, 
were carefully marked, and afterwards driven out of 

Edward was crowned with great pomp at Winchester, on 
Easter-day, and was instructed by Eadsine, * the archbishop, 
in the sacred duties of governing. This, at the time, he 
treasured up with readiness in his memory, and afterwards 
displayed in the holiness of his conduct. The above-men- 
tioned Eadsine, in the following year, falling into an incurable 
disease, appointed as his successor Siward, abbat of Abing- 
don; communicating his design only to the king and the 
earl, lest any improper person should aspire to so great an 
eminence, either by solicitation or by purchase. Shortly 
after the king took Edgitha. the daughter of Godwin, to 
wife ; a woman whose bosom was the school of every liberal 
art, though little skilled in earthly matters : on seeing her, if 
you were amazed at her erudition, you must absolutely lan- 
guish for the purity of her mind, and the beauty of her per- 
son. Both in her husband's life-time, and afterwards, she 
was not entirely free from suspicion of dishonour ; but when 
dying, in the time of king William, she voluntarily satisfied 
the by-standers of her unimpaired chastity, by an oath. 
When she became his wife, the king acted towards her so 
delicately, that he neither removed her from his bed, nor 
knew her after the manner of men. I have not been able to 
discover, whether he acted thus from dislike to her family, 
which he prudently dissembled from the exigency of the 
times, or out of pure regard to chastity: yet it is most 
notoriously affirmed, that he never violated his purity by 
connexion with any woman. 

But since I have gotten thus far, I wish to admonish my 
reader, that the track of my history is here but dubious, 

• " Eadsine was translated from Winchester to Canterbury in 1038. The 
Saxon Chronicle (p. 416) states, that he consecrated Edward, at Winches- 
ter, on Easter day, and before all people well admonished him." — Hardy. 

A.D. 1044-1052.] PARTIES AND FEUDS. 217 

because the truth of the facts hangs in suspense. It is to be 
observed, that the king had sent for several Normans, who 
had formerly slightly ministered to his wants when in exile. 
Among these was Robert, whom, from being a monk of 
Jumitges, he had appointed bishop of London, and after- 
wards archbishop of Canterbury. The English of our times 
vilify this person, together with the rest, as being the im- 
peacher of Godwin and his sons ; the sower of discord ; the 
purchaser of the archbishopric: they say too, that Godwin 
and his sons were men of liberal mind, the stedfast pro- 
moters and defenders of the government of Edward; and 
that it was not to be wondered at, if they were hurt at see- 
ing men of yesterday, and strangers, preferred to themselves : 
still, that they never uttered even a harsh word against the 
king, whom they had formerly exalted to the throne. On 
the opposite hand the Normans thus defended themselves : 
they allege, that both himself and his sons acted with the 
greatest want of respect, as well as fidelity, to the king and 
his party ; aiming at equal sovereignty with him ; often ridi- 
culing his simplicity ; often hurling the shafts of their wit 
against him : that the Normans could not endure this, but 
endeavoured to weaken their power as much as possible; 
and that God manifested, at last, with what kind of purity 
Godwin had served him. For, after his piratical ravages, 
of which we shall speak hereafter, when he had been rein- 
stated in his original favour, and was sitting with the king 
at table, the conversation turning on Alfred, the king's 
brotlier, " I perceive," said he, " O king, that on every 
recollection of your brother, you regard me with angry coun- 
tenance ; but God forbid that I should swallow this morsel, 
if I am conscious of any thing which might tend, either to 
his danger or your disadvantage." On saying this, he was 
choked with the piece he had put into his mouth, and closed 
his eyes in death : being dragged from under the table by 
Harold his son, who stood near the king, he was buried in 
the cathedral of Winchester. 

On account of these feuds, as I have observed, my narra- 
tive labours under difficulties, for I cannot precisely ascertain 
the truth, by reason either of the natural dislike of these 
nations for each other, or because the English disdainfully 
bear with a superior, and the Normans cannot endure an 

218 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 13. 

equal. In the following book, however, when the oppor- 
tunity occurs for relating the arrival of the Normans in 
England, I shall proceed to speak of their habits ; at present 
I shall glance, with all possible truth, at the grudge of the 
king against Godwin and his sons. 

Eustace, * earl of Boulogne, the father of Godfrey and 
Baldwin, who, in our times, were kings of Jerusalem, had 
married the king's sister, Goda, who had borne a son, named 
Ralph, to her former husband, Walter of Mantes. This son, 
at that time earl of Hereford, was both indolent and cow- 
ardly ; he had been beaten in battle by the Welsh, and left 
his county and the city, together with the bishop, to be con- 
sumed with fire by the enemy ; the disgrace of which trans- 
action was wiped oflT by the valour of Harold, who arrived 
opportunely. Eustace, therefore, crossing the channel, from 
Whitsand to Dover, went to king Edward on some unknown 
business. When the conference was over, and he had ob- 
tained his request, he was returning through Canterbury, f 
where one of his harbingers, dealing too fiercely with a citi- 
zen, and demanding quarters with blows, rather than en- 
treaty or remuneration, irritated him to such a degree, that 
he put him to death. Eustace, on being informed of the 
fact, proceeded with all his retinue to revenge the murder of 
his servant, and killed the perpetrator of the crime, together 
with eighteen others : but the citizens flying to arms, he lost 
twenty-one of his people, and had multitudes wounded; 
himself and one more with diflaculty making their escape 
during the confusion. Thence returning to court and pro- 
curing a secret audience, he made the most of his own story, 
and excited the anger of the king against the English. God- 
win, being summoned by messengers, arrived at the palace. 

* Eustace II, sumamed Aux Grenons. He succeeded his father, 
Eustace I, in 1049 ; and married, in 1050, Goda, daughter of king Ethel- 
bert, and widow of Gauthier comte de Mantes, by whom he had no issue ; 
but by his wife Ida he left three sons; Eustace, who succeeded him, 
Godefroi, created, in 1076, marquis d'Anvers by the emperor Henry IV, 
and afterwards due de Bouillon, was elected king of Jerusalem in 1099, 
(23rd July); and, dying 18th July, 1100, was succeeded by his brother 
Baudouin, comte d'Edesse. — Habdy. 

f He means Dover ; according to the Saxon Chronicle, from which he 
borrows the account. Eustace stopped at Canterbury to refresh himself* 
aiid his people, and afterwards set out for Dover.— Sax. Chron. page 421; 


A. p. 1050.] GODWm BANISHED. 219 

When the business was related, and the king was dwelling 
more particularly on the insolence of the citizens of Canter- 
bury, this intelligent man perceived that sentence ought not 
to be pronounced, since the allegations had only been heard 
on one side of the question. In consequence, though the 
king ordered him directly to proceed with an army into 
Kent, to take signal vengeance on the people of Canterbury, 
still he refused : both because he saw with displeasure, that 
all foreigners were gaining fast upon the favour of the king ; 
and because he was desirous of evincing his regard to his 
countrymen. Besides, his opinion was more accordant, as it 
should seem, with equity, which was, that the principal 
people of that town should be mildly summoned to the king's 
court, on account of the tumult; if they could exculpate 
themselves, they should depart unhurt; but if they could 
not, they must make atonement, either by money, or by cor- 
poral punishment, to the king, whose peace they had broken, 
and to the earl, whom they had injured: moreover, that it 
appeared unjust to pass sentence on those people unheard, 
who had a more especial right to protection. After tliis the 
conference broke up ; Godwin paying little attention to the 
indignation of the king, as merely momentary. In conse- 
quence of this, the nobility of the whole kingdom were com- 
manded to meet at Gloucester, that the business might there 
be canvassed in full assembly. Thither came those, at that 
time, most renowned Northumbrian earls, Siward and 
Leofric, and all the nobility of England. Godwin and his 
sons alone, who knew that they were suspected, not deeming 
it prudent to be present unarmed, halted with a strong force 
at Beverstone, giving out that they had assembled an army 
to restrain the Welsh, who, meditating independence on the 
king, had fortified a town in the county of Hereford, where 
Sweyn, one of the sons of Godwin, was at that time in com- 
mand. The Welsh, however, who had come beforehand to 
the conference, had accused them of a conspiracy, and ren- 
dered them odious to the whole court; so that a rumour 
prevailed, that the king's army would attack them in that 
very place. Godwin, hearing this, sounded the alarm to his 
party ; told them that they should not purposely withstand 
tlieir sovereign lord ; but if it came to hostilities, they should 
not retreat without avenging themselves. And, if better 

220 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURr. [b. u. c. 13. 

counsels had not intervened, a dreadful scene of misery, and 
a worse than civil war, would have ensued. Some small 
share of tranquillity, however, being restored, it was ordered 
that the council should be again assembled at London ; and 
that Svveyn, the son of Godwin, should appease the king's 
anger by withdrawing himself: that Godwin and Harold 
should come as speedily as possible to the council, with tliis 
condition: that they should be unarmed, bring with them 
only twelve men, and deliver up to the king the command of 
the troops which they had throughout England. This on 
the other hand they refused ; observing, that they could not 
go to a party-meeting without sureties and pledges ; that 
they would obey their lord in the surrender of the soldiers, 
as well as in every thing else, except risking their lives and 
reputation : should they come unarmed, the loss of life might 
be apprehended; if attended with few followers, it would 
detract from their glory. The king had made up his mind 
too firmly, to listen to the entreaties of those who interceded 
with him ; wherefore an edict was published, that they 
should depart from England within five days. Godwin and 
Sweyn retired to Flanders, and Harold to Ireland. His earl- 
dom was given to Elgar, the son of Leofric, a man of active 
habits ; who, receiving, governed it with ability, and readily 
restored it to him on his return ; and afterwards, on the 
death of Godwin, when Harold had obtained the dukedom 
of his father, he boldly reclaimed it, though, by the accusa- 
tion of his enemies, he was banished for a time. All the 
property of the queen was seized, and herself delivered into 
the custody of the king's sister at Wherwell, lest she alone 
should be void of care, wliilst all her relations were sighing 
for their country. 

The following year, the exiles, each emerging from his 
station, were now cruising the British sea, infesting the 
coast with piracy, and carrying off rich booty from the sub- 
stance of their countrymen. Against these, on the king's 
part, more than sixty sail lay at anchor. Earls Odo and 
Ralph, relations of the king, were commanders of the fleet. 
Nor did this emergency find Edward himself inactive ; since 
he would pass the night on ship-board, and watch the sallies 
of the plunderers ; diligently compensating, by the wisdom 
of his counsel, for that personal service which age and in- 


A.D. 1051.] RETURN OF GODWIN. 221 

firmity denied. But when they had approached each other, 
and the conflict was on the eve of commencing, a very thick 
mist arose, which in a moment obscured the sight of the 
opponents, and repressed the pitiable audacity of men. At 
last Godwin and his companions were driven, by the im- 
petuosity of the wind, to the port they had left ; and not long 
after returning to their own country with pacific dispositions, 
they found the king at London, and were received by him on 
soliciting pardon. The old man, skilled in leading the minds 
of his audience by his reputation and his eloquence, dex- 
terously exculpated himself from every thing laid to his 
charge ; and in a short time prevailed so far, as to recover 
his honours, undiminished, for himself and for his children ; 
to drive all the Normans, branded with ignominy, from Eng- 
land ; and to get sentence passed on Eobert, the archbishop, 
and his accomplices, for disturbing the order of the king- 
dom and stimulating the royal mind against his subjects. 
But he, not waiting for violent measures, had fled of his own 
accord while the peace was in agitation, and proceeding to 
Rome, and appealing to the apostolical see on his case, as he 
was returning through Jumieges, he died there, and was 
buried in the church of St. Mary, which he chiefly had built 
at vast expense. While he was yet living, Stigand, who 
was bishop of Winchester, forthwith invaded the archbishopric 
of Canterbury : a prelate of notorious ambition, who sought 
after honours too keenly, and who, through desire of a 
higher dignity, deserting the bishopric of the South Saxons, 
had occupied Winchester, which he held with the arch- 
bishopric. For this reason he was never honoured with the 
pall by the papal see, except that one Benedict, the usurper, 
as it were, of the papacy, sent him one ; either corrupted by 
money to grant a thing of this kind, or else because bad 
people are pleased to gratify others of the same description. 
But he, through the zeal of the fiiithful, being expelled by 
Nicholas, who legally assumed the papacy from being bishop 
of Florence, laid aside the title he so little deserved. Sti- 
gand, moreover, in the time of king William, degraded by 
the Roman cardinals and condemned to perpetual imprison- 
ment, could not fill up the measure of his insatiable avidity 
even in death. For on his decease, a small key wns dis- 
covered among his secret recesses, which on being applied to 

222 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 13. 

the lock of a chamber-cabinet, gave evidence of papers, de- 
scribing immense treasures, and in which were noted both 
the quality and the quantity of the precious metals which 
this greedy pilferer had hidden on all his estates : but of this 
hereafter : I shall now complete the history of Godwin which 
I had begun. 

When he was a young man he had Canute's sister to wife, 
by whom he had a son, who in his early youth, while proudly 
curveting on a horse which his grandfather had given him, 
was carried into the Thames, and perished in the stream : 
his mother, too, paid the penalty of her cruelty ; being killed 
by a stroke of lightning. For it is reported, that she was in 
the habit of purchasing companies of slaves in England, and 
sending them into Denmark ; more especially girls, whose 
beauty and age rendered them more valuable, that she might 
accumulate money by this horrid traffic. After her death, 
he married another wife,* whose descent I have not been 
able to trace ; by her he had Harold, Sweyn, Wulnod, 
Tosty, Girth, and Leofwine. Harold became king for a few 
months after Edward ; and being overcome by William at 
Hastings, there lost his life and kingdom, together with his 
two younger brothers. Wulnod, given by his father as an 
hostage, was sent over to Normandy by king Edward, where 
he remained all that king's time in inextricable captivity ; and 
being sent back into England during William's reign, grew 
old in confinement at Salisbury : Sweyn being of an obsti- 
nate disposition, and faithless to the king, frequently revolted 
from his father, and his brother Harold, and turning pirate, 
tarnished the virtues of his forefathers, by his depredations 
on the coast : at last struck with remorse for the murder of 
Bruno, f a relation, or as some say, his brother, he went to 
Jerusalem, and returning thence was surprised by the Sara- 
cens, and put to death : Tosty, after the death of Si ward, 
was preferred to the earldom of Northumbria by king Ed- 

• Earl Godwin's second wife's nantie was Gytha. (Saxon Chron. and 
Flor. Wigom.) — Hardy. 

+ Sweyn had debauched an abbess, and being enraged that he was not 
allowed to retain her as his wife, he fled to Flanders. Shortly after he 
returned, and intreated Bruno or Beom to accompany him to the king, and 
to intercede for his pardon : but it should seem this was a mere pretence ; 
as he forced him on ship-board, and then put him to death. V. Flor. 
Wigom, A.D. 1049. Chron. Sax. a.d. 1046, p. 419. 

AD. 1065.] Godwin's family. 223 

ward, and presided over that province for nearly ten years ; 
at the end of which he impelled the Northumbrians to rebel, 
by the asperity of his manners. For finding him unattended, 
they drove him from the district ; not deeming it proper to 
kill him, from respect to his dignity : but they put to death 
his attendants both English and Danes, appropriating to 
their own use, his horses, his arms, and liis effects. As soon 
as this rumour, and the distracted state of the country reached 
the king, Harold set forward to avenge the outrage. The 
Northumbrians, though not inferior in point of numbers, yet 
preferring peace, excused themselves to him for the transac- 
tion ; averring, that they were a people free-born, and freely 
educated, and unable to put up with the cruelty of any 
prince ; that they had been taught by their ancestors either 
to be free, or to die ; did the king wish them to be obedient, 
he should appoint Morcar, the son of Elgar, to preside over 
them, who would experience how cheerfully they could obey, 
provided they were treated with gentleness. On hearing 
this, Harold, who regarded the quiet of the country more 
than the advantage of his brother, recalled his army, and, 
after waiting on the king, settled the earldom on Morcar. 
Tosty, enraged against every one, retired with his wife and 
children to Flanders, and continued there till the death of 
Edward : but this I shall delay mentioning, while I record 
what, as I have learned from ancient men, happened in his 
time at Rome. 

Pope Gregory the Sixth,* first called Gratian, was a man 
of equal piety and strictness. He found the power of the 
Roman pontificate so reduced by the negligence of his pre- 
decessors, that, with the exception of a few neighbouring 
towns, and the offerings of the faithful, he had scarcely any- 
thing whereon to subsist. The cities and possessions at a 
distance, which were the property of the church, were for- 
cibly seized by plunderers ; the public roads and highways 
throughout all Italy were thronged with robbers to such • a 
degree, that no pilgrim could pass in safety unless strongly 

• " Pagi places the commencement of Gregory's papacy in May 1044, 
but Ughelli cites a charter in which the month of August, 1045, is stated 
to be in the first year of his pontificate. He was deposed at a council held 
at Sutri, on Christmas-day, a.d. 1046, for having obtained the holy see by 
gimony. Mr. Sharpe remarks that Malmesbury's character of this pope is 
considered as apocryphal. Compare Rodul Glaber, lib. v. c. 5." — Hardy. 


guarded. Swarms of thieves beset every path, nor could 
the traveller devise any method of escaping them. Their 
rage was equally bent against the poor and the rich ; en- 
treaty or resistance were alike unavailing. The journey to 
Kome was discontinued by every nation, as each had much 
rather contribute his money to the churches in his own 
country, than feed a set of plunderers with the produce of 
his labours. And what was the state of that city which of 
old was the only dwelling-place of holiness ? Why there an 
abandoned set of knaves and assassins thronged the very 
forum. If any one by stratagem eluded the people who lay 
in wait upon the road, from a desire even at the peril of de- 
struction to see the church of the apostle ; yet then, encoun- 
tering these robbers, he was never able to return home with- 
out the loss either of property or of life. Even over the 
very bodies of the holy apostles and martyrs, even on the sacred 
altars were swords unsheathed, and the oiferings of pilgrims, 
ere well laid out of their hands, were snatched away and 
consumed in drunkenness and fornication. By such evils 
was the papacy of Gregory beset. At first he began to deal 
gently with his subjects ; and, as became a pontiff, rather by 
love than by terror ; he repressed the delinquents more by 
words than by blows ; he entreated the townsmen to abstain 
from the molestation of pilgrims, and the plunder of sacred 
offerings. The one, he said, was contrary to nature, that 
the man who breathed the common air could not enjoy the 
common peace ; that Christians surely ought to have liberty 
of proceeding whither they pleased among Christians, since 
they were all of the same household, all united by the tie of 
the same blood, redeemed by the same price : the other, he 
said, was contrary to the command of God, who had 
ordained, that " they who served at the altar, should live by 
the altar ;" moreover, that " the house of God ought to be 
the house of prayer, not a den of thieves," nor an assembly 
of gladiators ; that they should allow the offerings to go to 
the use of the priests, or the support of the poor ; that he 
would provide for those persons whom want had compelled 
to plunder, by giving them some honest employment to pro- 
cure their subsistence; that such as were instigated by 
avaricious desire, should desist immediately for the love of 
God and the credit of the world. He invited, by mandates 


and epistles, those who had invaded the patrimony of the 
church, to restore Avhat did not belong to them, or else to 
prove in the Roman senate, that they held it justly ; if they 
would do neither, they must be told that they were no longer 
members of the church, since they opposed St. Peter, the 
head of the church, and his vicar. Perpetually haranguing 
to this effect, and little or nothing profiting by it, he endea- 
voured to cure the inveterate disorder by having recourse to 
harsher remedies. He then separated from the body of the 
church, by the brand of excommunication, all who were 
guilty of such practices, and even those who associated or 
conversed with the delinquents. Though he acted strictly 
according to his duty, yet his diligence in this business had 
well nigh proved his destruction ; for as one says, " He who 
accuses a mocker, makes himself an enemy," so the aban- 
doned crew began to kick against this gentle admonition ; 
to utter their threats aloud ; to clash their arms around 
the walls of the city, so as nearly even to kill the pope. 
Finding it noAv absolutely necessary to cut short the evil, 
he procured arms and horses from every side, and equipped 
troops of horse and foot. Taking possession, in the first 
place, of the church of St. Peter, he either killed or put 
to flight the plunderers of the oblations. As fortune 
appeared to favour his designs, he proceeded farther; and 
despatching all who dared resist, restored to their original 
jurisdiction all the estates and towns which had been for a 
considerable time lost. In this manner, j)eace, which had 
been long driven into banishment by the negligence of many, 
was restored to the country by the exertions of an indivi- 
dual. Pilgrims now began securely to travel on the public 
ways, which had been deserted ; they feasted their eyes with 
pleasure on the ancient wonders within the city ; and, hav- 
ing made their ofierings, they returned home with songs of 
joy. In the meantime the common people of Rome, who 
had been accustomed to live by theft, began to call him san- 
guinary, and not worthy to offer sacrifice to God, since he 
was stained by so many murders ; and, as it generally hap- 
pens that the contagion of slander spreads universally, even 
the cardinals themselves joined in the sentiments of the peo- 
ple J so that, when this holy man was confined by the sick- 
ness which proved his death, they, after consulting among 


226 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [e. n, c. 13. 

themselves, with matchless insolence recommended him not 
to think of ordering himself to be buried in . the church of 
St. Peter with the rest of the popes, since he had polluted 
his office by being accessory to the death of so many men. 
Resuming spirit, however, and sternly regarding them, he 
addressed them in the following manner : 

" If you possessed either a single spark of human reason, 
or of the knowledge of divine truth, you would hardly have 
approached your pontiff with so inconsiderate an address ; 
for, throughout my whole life, I have dissipated my own 
patrimony for your advantage, and at last have sacrificed the 
applause of the world for your rescue. If any other persons 
were to allege what you urge in defamation of me, it would 
become you to silence them by explaining away the false 
opinions of fools. For whom, I pray you, have I laid up 
treasure ? For myself perhaps ? and yet I already possessed 
the treasures of my predecessors, which were enough for 
any man's covetousness. To whom have I restored safety 
and liberty ? You will reply, to myself perhaps ? And yet 
I was adored by the people, and did, without restraint, what- 
ever I pleased ; entire orations teemed with my praises ; 
every day resounded my applause. These praises and these 
applauses have been lost to me, through my concern for your 
poverty. Towards you I turned my thoughts; and found 
that I must adopt severer measures. A sacrilegious robber 
fattened on the produce of your property, while your subsist- 
ence was only from day to day. He, from the offerings be- 
longing to you, was clad in costly silk ; while you, in mean 
and tattered clothing, absolutely grieved my sight. In con- 
sequence, when I could endure this no longer, I acted with 
hostility to others, that I might get credit for the clergy, 
though at the loss of the citizens. However, I now find I 
have lavished my favours on the ungrateful ; for you publicly 
proclaim what others mutter only in secret. I approve, in- 
deed, your freedom, but I look in vain for your affection. A 
dying parent is persecuted by his sons concerning his burial. 
Will you deny me the house common to all living? The 
harlot, the usurer, the robber, are not forbidden an entrance 
to the church, and do you refuse it to the pope ? What sig- 
nifies it whether the dead or the living enter the sanctuary, 
except it be, that the Kving is subject to many temptations, 


SO that he cannot be free from spot even in the church ; often 
finding matter of sin in the very place where he had come to 
wash it away ; whereas the dead knows not how, nay, he 
who wants only his last sad office, has not the power to sin. 
What savage barbarity then is it to exclude from the house 
of Grod him in whom both the inclination and the power of 
sinning have ceased ! Repent, then, my sons, of your preci- 
pitate boldness, if perchance God may forgive you this 
crime, for you have spoken both foolishly and bitterly even to 
this present hour. But that you may not suppose me to rest 
merely on my own authority, listen to reason. Every act of 
man ought to be considered according to the intention of his 
heart, that the examination of the deed may proceed to that 
point whence the design originated ; I am deceived if the 
Truth does not say the same ; ' If thine eye be simple thy 
whole body shall be full of light ; if evil, all thy body shall 
be dark.' A wretched pauper hath often come to me to re- 
lieve his distress. As I knew not what was about to happen, 
I have presented him with divers pieces of money, and dis- 
missed liim. On his departure he has met with a thief on 
the public road, has incautiously fallen into conversation 
with him, proclaimed the kindness of the apostolical see, 
and, to prove the truth of his words, produced the purse. 
On their journey the way has been beguiled with various 
discourse, until the dissembler, loitering somewhat behind, 
has felled the stranger with a club, and immediately des- 
patched him ; and, after carrying off his money, has boasted 
of a murder which liis thirst for plunder had excited. Can 
you, therefore, justly accuse me for giving that to a stranger 
which was the cause of his death ? for even the most cruel 
person would not murder a man unless he hoped to fill his 
pockets with the money. What shall I say of civil and 
ecclesiastical laws ? By these is not the selfsame fact both 
punished and approved under different circumstances ? The 
thief is punished for murdering a man in secret, whereas the 
soldier is applauded who destroys his enemy in battle ; the 
homicide, then, is ignominious in one and laudable in the 
other, as the latter committed it for tlie safety of his country, 
the former for the gratification of his desire for plunder. 
My predecessor Adrian the First, of renowned memory, was 
applauded for giving up the investiture of the churches to 



228 WlLLIAil OP MALMESBURT. [b. ii. c. 13. 

Charles the Great ; so that no person elected could be conse- 
crated by the bishop till the king had first dignified him with 
the ring and staff : on the other hand the pontiffs of our 
time have got credit for taking away these appointments 
from the princes. What at that time, then, might reason- 
ably be granted, may at the present be reasonably taken 
away. But why so ? Because the mind of Charles the 
Great was not assailable by avarice, nor could any person 
easily find access unless he entered by the door. Besides, at 
so vast a distance, it could not be required of the papal see 
to grant its consent to each person elected, so long as there 
was a king at hand who disposed of nothing through avarice, 
but always appointed religious persons to the churches, ac- 
cording to the sacred ordinances of the canons. At the 
present time luxury and ambition have beset every king's 
palace; wherefore the spouse of Christ deservedly asserts 
her liberty, lest a tyrant should prostitute to an ambitious 
usurper. Thus, on either side, may my cause be denied or 
affirmed; it is not the office of a bishop either himself to 
fight, or to command others to do so; but it belongs to a 
bishop's function, if he see innocence made shipwreck of, to 
oppose both hand and tongue. Ezekiel accuses the priests 
for not strongly opposing and holding forth a shield for the 
house of Israel in the day of the Lord. Now there are two 
persons in the church of God, appointed for the purpose of 
repressing crimes ; one who can rebuke sharply ; the other, 
who can wield the sword. I, as you can witness for me, 
have not neglected my part ; as far as I saw it could profit, 
I did rebuke sharply. I sent a message to him whose busi- 
ness it was to bear the sword ; he wrote me word back, that 
he was occupied in his war with the Vandals, entreating me 
not to spare my labour nor his expense in breaking up the 
meetings of the plunderers. If I had refused, what excuse 
could I offer to God after the emperor had delegated his 
office to me ? Could I see the murder of the townspeople, 
the robbery of the pilgrims, and slumber on ? But he who 
spares a thief, kills the innocent. Yet it will be objected 
that it is not the part of a priest to defile himself with the 
blood of any one : I grant it. But he does not defile him- 
self, who frees the innocent by the destruction of the guilty. 
Blessed, truly blessed, are they who always keep judgment 


and do justice. Phineas and Mattathias were priests most 
renowned in fame, both crowned with the sacred mitre, and 
both habited in sacerdotal garb ; and yet they both punished 
the wicked with their own hands. The one transfixed the 
guilty couple with a javelin: the other mingled the blood of 
the sacrificer with the sacrifice. If then those persons, re- 
garding, as it were, the thick darkness of the law, were, 
through divine zeal, transported for mysteries, the shadows 
only of those which were to be ; shall we, who see the truth 
with perfect clearness, suffer our sacred things to be pro- 
faned? Azarias the priest drove away king Ozias, when 
offering incense, and no doubt would have killed him, had he 
not quickly departed ; the divine vengeance, however, anti- 
cipated the hand of the priest, for a leprosy preyed on the 
body of the man whose mind had coveted unlawful things ; 
the devotion of a king was disturbed, and shall not the de- 
sires of a thief be so ? It is not enough to excuse, I even 
applaud this my conduct ; indeed I have conferred a benefit 
on the very persons I seem to have destroyed. I have 
diminished their punishment in accelerating their deaths. 
The longer a wicked man lives the more he will sin, unless 
he be such as God hath graciously reserved for a singular 
example. Death in general is good for all ; for by it the 
just man finds repose in heaven, — the unjust ceases from his 
crimes, — the bad man puts an end to his guilt, — the good 
proceeds to his reward, — the saint approaches to the palm, — 
the sinner looks forward to pardon, because death has fixed 
a boundary to his transgressions. They then surely ought 
to thank me, who through my conduct have been exempted 
from so many sufferings. I have urged these matters in my 
own defence, and to invahdate your assertions : however, 
since both your reasoning and mine may be fallacious, let us 
commit all to the decision of God. Place my body, when 
laid out in the manner of my predecessors, before the gates 
of the church ; and let them be secured with locks and bars. 
If God be willing that I should enter, you will hail a 
miracle ; if not, do with my dead body according to your 

Struck by this address, when he had breathed his last, 
they carried out the remains of the departed prelate before 
the doors, which were strongly fastened ; and presently a 

230 WILLIAM OF MA.LMESBTJRY. [r ir. c. 13. 

whirlwind, sent hj God, broke every opposing bolt, and 
drove the very doors, with the utmost violence, against the 
walls. The surrounding people applaud with joy, and the 
body of the pontiff was interred, with all due respect, by 
the side of the other popes. 

At the same time something similar occurred in England, 
not by divine miracle, but by infernal craft ; which when I 
shall have related, the credit of the narrative will not be 
shaken, though the minds of the hearers should be incredu- 
lous ; for I have heard it from a man of such character, who 
swore he had seen it, that I should blush to disbelieve. 
There resided at Berkeley a woman addicted to witchcraft, 
as it afterwards appeared, and skilled in ancient augury : she 
was excessively gluttonous, perfectly lascivious, setting no 
bounds to her debaucheries, as she was not old, though fast 
declining in life. On a certain day, as she was regaling, a 
jack-daw, which was a very great favourite, chattered a 
little more loudly than usual. On hearing which the wo- 
man's knife fell from her hand, her countenance grew pale, 
and deeply groaning, " This day," said she, " my plough has 
completed its last furrow ; to-day I shall hear of, and suffer, 
some dreadful calamity." While yet speaking, the messenger 
of her misfortunes arrived; and being asked, why he ap- 
proached with so distressed an air ? " I bring news," said he, 
"from that village," naming the place, " of the death of your 
son, and of the whole family, by a sudden accident." At 
this intelligence, the woman, sorely afflicted, immediately 
took to her bed, and perceiving the disorder rapidly ap- 
proaching the vitals, she summoned her surviving children, 
a monk, and a nun, by hasty letters ; and, when they arrived, 
with faltering voice, addressed them thus : " Formerly, my 
children, I constantly administered to my wretched circum- 
stances by demoniacal arts : I have been the sink of every 
vice, the teacher of every allurement : yet, while practising 
these crimes, I was accustomed to soothe my hapless soul 
with the hope of your piety. Despairing of myself, I rested 
my expectations on you; I advanced you as my defenders 
against evil spirits, my safeguards against my strongest foes. 
Now, since I have approached the end of my life, and shall 
have those eager to punish, who lured me to sin, I entreat 
you by your mother's breasts, if you have any regard, any 


affection, at least to endeavour to alleviate my torments; 
and, although you cannot revoke the sentence already passed 
upon my soul, yet you may, perhaps, rescue my body, by 
these means : sew up my corpse in the skin of a stag ; lay 
it on its back in a stone coffin ; fasten down the lid with lead 
and iron; on this lay a stone, bound round with three iron 
chains of enormous weight; let there be psalms sung for 
fifty nights, and masses said for an equal number of days, 
to allay the ferocious attacks of my adversaries. If I lie 
thus secure for three nights, on the fourth day bury your 
mother in the ground ; although I fear, lest the earth, which 
has been so often burdened with my crimes, should refuse to 
receive and cherish me in her bosom." They did their ut- 
most to comply with her injunctions: but alas! vain were 
pious tears, vows, or entreaties ; so great was the woman's 
guilt, so great the devil's violence. For on the first two 
nights, while the choir of priests was singing psalms around 
the body, the devils, one by one, with the utmost ease 
bursting open the door of the church, though closed with 
an immense bolt, broke asunder the two outer chains ; the 
middle one being more laboriously wrought, remained entire. 
On the third night, about cock-crow, the whole monastery 
seemed to be overthrown from its very foundation, by the 
clamour of the approaching enemy. One devil, more ter- 
rible in appearance than the rest, and of loftier stature, 
broke the gates to shivers by the violence of his attack. 
The priests grew motionless with fear,* their hair stood on 
end, and they became speechless. He proceeded, as it ap- 
peared, with haughty step towards the coffin, and calling on 
the woman by name, commanded her to rise. She replying 
that she could not on account of the chains : " You shall be 
loosed," said he, "and to your cost:" and directly he broke 
the chain, which had mocked the ferocity of the others, with 
as little exertion as though it had been made of flax. He 
also beat down the cover of the coffin with his foot, and 
taking her by the hand, before them all, he dragged her out 
of the church. At the doors appeared a black horse, proudly 
neighing, with iron hooks projecting over his whole back ; 
on which the wretched creature was placed, and, imme- 
diately, with the whole party, vanished from the eyes of the 
* '' Steteruntque comae, et vox faucibus haesit." — Virgil, .^neid iii. 48. 

232 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 13. 

beholders; her pitiable cries, however, for assistance, were 
heard for nearly the space of four miles. No person will 
deem this incredible, who has read St. Gregory's Dialogues ;* 
who tells, in his fourth book, of a wicked man that had been 
buried in a church, and was cast out of doors again by 
devils. Among the French also, what I am about to relate 
is frequently mentioned. Charles Martel, a man of re- 
nowned valour, who obliged the Saracens, when they had 
invaded France, to retire to Spain, was, at his death, buried 
in the church of St. Denys; but as he had seized much of 
the property of almost all the monasteries in France for the 
purpose of paying his soldiers, he was visibly taken away 
from his tomb by evil spirits, and has nowhere been seen 
to his day. At length this was revealed to the bishop of 
Orleans, and by him publicly made known. 

But to return to Rome : there was a citizen of this place, 
youthful, rich, and of senatorial rank, who had recently 
married ; and, who calling together his companions, had 
made a plentiful entertainment. After the repast, when by 
moderate drinking they had excited hilarity, they went out 
into the field to promote digestion, either by leaping, or 
hurling, or some other exercise. The master of the ban- 
quet, who was leader of the game, called for a ball to play 
with, and in the meantime placed the wedding ring on the 
outstretched finger of a brazen statue Avhich stood close at 
hand. But when almost all the others had attacked him 
alone, tired with the violence of the exercise, he left off 
playing first, and going to resume his ring, he saw the fin- 
ger of the statue clenched fast in the palm. Finding, after 
many attempts, that he was unable either to force it off, or 
to break the finger, he retired in silence; concealing the 
matter from his companions, lest they should laugh at liim 
at the moment, or deprive him of the ring when he was 
gone. Returning thither with some servants in the dead of 
night, he was surprised to find the finger again extended, 
and the ring taken away. Dissembling his loss, he was 
soothed by the blandishments of his bride. When the hour 
of rest arrived, and he had placed himself by the side of liis 
spouse, he was conscious of something dense, and cloud-like, 
rolling between them, which might be felt, though not seen, 
* There are various stories of this kind in Gregory's Dialogues. 


and by this means was impeded in his embraces : he heard a 
voice too, saying, " Embrace me, since you wedded me to- 
day ; I am Venus, on whose finger you put the ring ; I have 
it, nor will I restore it." Terrified at such a prodigy, he 
had neither courage, nor ability to reply, and passed a sleep- 
less night in silent reflection upon the matter. A consider- 
able space of time elapsed in this way: as often as he was 
desirous of the embraces of his wife, the same circumstance 
ever occurred; though in other respects, he was perfectly 
equal to any avocation, civil or military. At length, urged 
by the complaints of his consort, he detailed the matter to 
her parents; who, after deliberating for a time, disclosed it 
to one Palumbus, a suburban priest. This man was skilled 
in necromancy, could raise up magical figures, terrify devils^ 
and impel them to do anything he chose. Making an agree- 
ment, that he should fill his purse most plentifully, provided 
he succeeded in rendering the lovers happy, he called up all 
the powers of his art, and gave the young man a letter 
which he had prepared ; saying, " Go, at such an hour of 
the night, into the high road, where it divides into four 
several ways, and stand there in silent expectation. There 
will pass by human figures of either sex, of every age, rank, 
and condition ; some on horseback, some on foot ; some with 
countenances dejected, others elated with full-swollen inso- 
lence ; in short, you will perceive in their looks and gestures, 
every symptom both of joy and of grief: though these should 
address you, enter into conversation with none of them. 
This company will be followed by a person taller, and more 
corpulent than the rest, sitting in a chariot ; to him you will, 
in silence, give the letter to read, and immediately your wish 
will be accomplished, provided you act with resolution." 
The young man took the road he was commanded; and, at 
night, standing in the open air, experienced the truth of the 
priest's asb?rtion by everything which he saw ; there was 
nothing but what was completed to a tittle. Among other 
passing figures, he beheld a woman, in meretricious garb, 
riding on a mule ; her hair, which was bound above in a 
golden fillet, floated unconfined on her shoulders; in her 
hand was a golden wand, with which she directed the pro- 
gress of her beast ; she was so thinly clad, as to be almost 
naked, and her gestures were wonderfully indecent. But 

234 WILLIAM OF MALMESBTJRY. [b. ir. r. 13, 

what need of more ? At last came the chief, in appearance, 
who, from his chariot adorned with emeralds and pearls, fix- 
ing his eyes most sternly on the young man, demanded the 
cause of his presence. He made no reply, but stretching 
out his hand, gave him the letter. The demon, not daring 
to despise the well-known seal, read the epistle, and imme- 
diately, lifting up his hands to heaven, "Almighty God," 
said he, " in whose sight every transgression is as a noisome 
smell, how long wilt thou endure the crimes of the priest 
Palumbus ?" The devil then directly sent some of those 
about him to take the ring by force from Venus, who re- 
stored it at last, though with great reluctance. The young 
man thus obtaining his object, became possessed of his long 
desired pleasures without farther obstacle ; but Palumbus, 
on hearing of the devil's complaint to God concerning him, 
understood that the close of his days was predicted. In 
consequence, making a pitiable atonement by voluntarily 
cutting off all his limbs, he confessed unheard-of crimes 
to the pope in the presence of the Roman people. 

At that time the body of Pallas, the son of Evander, of 
whom Virgil speaks, was found entire at Rome, to the great 
astonishment of all, for having escaped corruption so many 
ages. Such, however, is the nature of bodies embalmed, 
that, when the flesh decays, the skin preserves the nerves, 
and the nerves the bones. The gash which Turnus had 
made in the middle of his breast measured four feet and a 
half. His epitaph was found to this effect, 

Pallas, Evander's son, lies buried here 
In order due, transfix'd by Turnus' spear. 

Which epitaph I should not think made at the time, though 
Carmentis the mother of Evander is reported to have dis- 
covered the Roman letters, but that it was composed by 
Ennius, or some other ancient poet.* There was a burning 
lamp at his head, constructed by magical art ; so that no 

* The original is as follows : 

Filius Evandri Pallas, quern lancea Tumi 
Militis occidit, more suo jacet hie. 

I am unable to say who was the author of this epigram, but it is not too 
hazardous to assert that it was not composed either by Ennius or by any 
other ancient poet. 


violent blast, no dripping of water could extinguish it. 
While many were lost in admiration at this, one person, as 
there are always some people expert in mischief, made an 
aperture beneath the flame with an iron style, which intro- 
ducing the air, the light vanished. The body, when set up 
against the wall, surpassed it in height, but some days after- 
wards, being drenched with the drip of the eves, it acknow- 
ledged the corruption common to mortals ; the skin and the 
nerves dissolving. 

At that time too, on the confines of Brittany and Nor- 
mandy, a prodigy was seen in one, or more properly speak- 
ing, in two women : there were two heads, four arms, and 
every other part two-fold to the navel ; beneath, were two 
legs, two feet, and all other parts single. While one was 
laughing, eating, or speaking, the other would cry, fast, or 
remain silent : though both mouths ate, yet the excrement 
was discharged by only one passage. At last, one dying, the 
other survived, and the living carried about the dead, for the 
space of three years, till she died also, through the fatigue of 
the weight, and the stench of the dead carcass.* Many were 
of opinion, and some even have written, that these women 
represented England and Normandy, which, though sepa- 
rated by position, are yet united under one master. What- 
ever wealth these countries greedily absorb, flows into one 
common receptacle, which is either the covetousness of 
princes, or the ferocity of surrounding nations. England, 
yet vigorous, supports with her wealth Normandy now dead 
and almost decayed, until she herself perhaps shall fall 
through the violence of spoilers. Happy, if she shall ever 
again breathe that liberty, the mere shadow of which she 
has long pursued ! She now mourns, borne down with ca- 
lamity, and oppressed with exactions ; the causes of which 
misery I shall relate, after I have despatched some things 
pertaining to my subject. For since I have hitherto recorded 
the civil and mihtary transactions of the kings of England, I 

* There seems no reason to doubt the truth of this circumstance, since 
the exhibition of the Siamese twins, the most extraordinary lusus naturce 
that has occurred in the nineteenth century. Medical science, aided 
by comparative anatomy, has ascertained that the bodies of both man and 
the brute creation are susceptible of combinations — not usually occurring in 
the couise of nature, — which in former times were thought impossible, and 
as such were universally disbelieved. 

236 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. Lb. n. c. 13. 

may be allowed to expatiate somewhat on the sanctity of cer- 
tain of them ; and at the same time to contemplate what 
splendour of divine love beamed on this people, from the first 
dawning of their faith : since I believe you can no where 
find the bodies of so many saints entire after death, typifying 
the state of final incorruption. I imagine this to have taken 
place by God's agency, in order that a nation, situated, as it 
were, almost out of the world, should more confidently em- 
brace the hope of a resurrection from the contemplation of 
the incorruption of the saints. There are, altogether, five 
which I have known of, though the residents in many places 
boast of more ; Saint Etheldrida,* and Werburga, virgins ; 
king Edmund ; archbishop Elphege ;t Cuthbert the ancient 
father : who with skin and flesh unwasted, and their joints 
flexile, appear to have a certain vital warmth about them, 
and to be merely sleeping. Who can enumerate all the other 
saints, of different ranks and professions ? whose names and 
lives, singly to describe, 1 have neither intention nor leisure : 
yet oh that I might hereafter have leisure ! But I will be 
silent, lest I should seem to promise more than I can per- 
form. In consequence, it is not necessary to mention any of 
the commonalty, but merely, not to go out of the path of my 
subject history, the male and female scions of the royal stock, 
most of them innocently murdered ; and who have been con- 
secrated martyrs, not by human conjecture, but by divine 
acknowledgment. Hence may be known how little indulg- 
ence they gave to the lust of pleasure, who inherited eter- 
nal glory by means of so easy a death. 

In the former book, my history dwelt for some time on the 
praises of the most holy Oswald, king and martyr ; among 
whose other marks of sanctity, was this, which, according to 
some copies, is related in the History of the Angles.;}: In 
the monastery at Selsey, which Wilfrid of holy memory had 

* Sometimes called St. Audry. She was abbess of Ely monastery. St. 
Werburga was patroness of Chester monastery. 

+ Archbishop of Canterbury, from a.d. 1006 to 1012. See Sax. Chro- 
nicle, pp. 402, 403. 

X Bede, book iv, chap. 1 4. There are some MSS. which want this 
chapter. The former editor of Bede accounts for it very satisfactorily ; 
stating that a very ancient MS. in the Cotton Collection has a note mark- 
ing that a leaf was here wanting ; and that those which want the chapter 
were transcripts of this imperfect MS. 


filled with Northumbrian monks, a dreadful maladj broke 
out, and destroyed numbers ; the remainder endeavoured to 
avert the pestilence by a fast of three days. On the second 
day of the fast, the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, appear- 
ing to a youth who was sick with the disorder, animated him 
by observing : " That he should not fear approaching death, 
as it would be a termination of his present illness, and an 
entrance into eternal life ; that no other person of that mon- 
astery would die of this disorder, because God had granted 
this to the merits of the noble king Oswald, who was that 
very day supplicating for his countrymen : for it was on this 
day that the king, murdered by the faithless, had in a mo- 
ment ascended to the heavenly tribunal : that they should 
search, therefore, in the scroll, in which the names of the 
dead were written, and if they found it so, they should put 
an end to the fast, give loose to security and joy, and sing 
solemn masses to God, and to the holy king." This vision 
being quickly followed by the death of the boy, and the anni- 
versary of the martyr being found in the martyrology, and at 
the same time the cessation of the disorder being attested by 
the whole province, the name of Oswald was from that period 
inserted among the martyrs, wiiich before, on account of liis 
recent death, had only been admitted into the list of the faith- 
ful. Deservedly, I say, then, deservedly is he to be cele- 
brated, whose glory the divine approbation so signally mani- 
fested, as to order him to be dignified with masses, in a 
manner, as I tliink, not usual among men. The undoubted 
veracity of the historian precludes the possibility of sup- 
posing this matter to be false ; as does also the blessed bishop 
Acca,* who was the friend of the author. 

Egbert, king of Kent, the son of Erconbert, whom I have 
mentioned before, had some very near relations, descended 
from the royal hue ; their names were Ethelredf and Ethel- 
bert, the sons of Ermenred his uncle. Apprehensive that 
they might grow up with notions of succeeding to the king- 
dom, and fearful for his safety, he kept them about him for 
some time, with very homely entertainment : and, at last, 
grudging them his regards, he removed them from his courL 

* Acca, bishop of Hexham, a.d. 710, and a great friend of venerable 
Bede, who inscribed to him many of his works. 
t Or Elbert. See b. i. c, i. p. 15. 

238 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 13. 

Soon after, when they had been secretly despatched by one 
of his servants named Thunre, which signifies Thunder, he 
buried them under heaps of rubbish, thinking that a murder 
perpetrated in privacy would escape detection. The eye of 
God however, which no secrets of the heart can deceive, 
brought the innocents to light, vouchsafing many cures upon 
the spot ; until the neighbours, being roused, dug up the 
unsightly heaps of turf and rubbish cast upon their bodies, 
and forming a trench after the manner of a sepulchre, they 
erected a small church over it. There they remained till the 
time of king Edgar, when they were taken up by St. Oswald, 
archbishop* of Worcester, and conveyed to the monastery of 
Ramsey ; from which period, granting the petitions of the 
suppliant, they have manifested themselves by many miracles. 

Offa king of the Mercians murdered many persons of con- 
sequence for the security, as he supposed, of his kingdom, 
without any distinction of friend or foe ; among these was 
king Ethelbert ;| thereby being guilty of an atrocious out- 
rage against the suitor of his daughter. His unmerited 
death, however, is thought to have been amply avenged by 
the short reign of Ofia's son. Indeed God signalised his 
sanctity by such evident tokens, that at this very day the 
episcopal church of Hereford is consecrated to his name. 
Nor should any thing appear idle or irrelevant, which our 
pious and religious ancestors have either tolerated by their 
silence, or confirmed by their authority. 

What shall my pen here trace worthy of St. Kenelm, a 
youth of tender age ? Kenulf, king of the Mercians, his 
father, had consigned him, when seven years old, to his sister 
Quendrida, for the purpose of education. But she, falsely 
entertaining hopes of the kingdom for herself, gave her little 
brother in charge to a servant of her household, with an 
order to despatch him. Taking out the innocent, under pre- 
tence of hunting for his amusement or recreation, he mur- 
dered and hid him in a thicket. But strange to tell, the 
crime which had been so secretly committed in England, 
gained publicity in Rome, by God's agency : for a dove, 
from heaven, bore a parchment scroll to the altar of St. 
Peter, containing an exact account both of his death and 

* He was at the same time bishop of Worcester, and archbishop of. York. 
See b. i. c. 4, p. 78. 

A.c. 1065 ] SAINT AVISTAN. 239 

place of burial. As this was written in the English language 
it Avas vainly attempted to be read by the Romans and men 
of other nations who were present. Fortunately, however, 
and opportunely, an Englishman was at hand, who translated 
the writing to the Roman people, into Latin, and gave occa- 
sion to the pope to write a letter to the kings of England, 
acquainting them with the martyrdom of their countryman. 
In consequence of this the body of the innocent was taken 
up in presence of a numerous assembly, and removed to 
Winchcomb. The murderous woman was so indignant at the 
vocal chaunt of the priests and loud applause of the laity, 
that she thrust out her head from the window of the chamber 
where she was standing, and, by chance, having in her hands 
a psalter, she came in course of reading to the psalm " O 
God my praise," which, for I know not what charm, reading 
backwards, she endeavoured to drown the joy of the choris- 
ters. At that moment, her eyes, torn by divine vengeance 
from their hollow sockets, scattered blood upon the verse 
which runs, " This is the work of them who defame me to 
the Lord, and who speak evil against my soul." The marks 
of her blood are still extant, proving the cruelty of the 
woman, and the vengeance of God. The body of the little 
saint is very generally adored, and there is hardly any place 
in England more venerated, or where greater numbers of 
persons attend at the festival ; and this arising from the long- 
continued belief of his sanctity, and the constant exhibition 
of miracles. 

Nor shall my history be wanting in thy praise, Wistan,* 
blessed youth, son of 'Wimund, son of Withlaf king of the 
Mercians, and of Elfleda, daughter of Ceohvulf, who was the 
uncle of Kenelm ; I will not, I say, pass thee over in silence, 
whom Berfert thy relation so atrociously murdered. And 
let posterity know, if they deem this history worthy of perusal, 
that there was nothing earthly more praiseworthy than your 
disposition ; at which a deadly assassin becoming irritated, 
despatched you : nor was there any tiling more innocent 
than your purity towards God ; invited by which, the secret 
Judge deemed it fitting to honour you : for a pillar of light, 
sent down from heaven, piercing the sable robe of night, 

* « Concerning St. Wistan, consult MSS. Harl. 2253. De Martyrio S. 
Wislani" — Hardy. 


revealed the wickedness of the deep cavern, and brought to 
view the crime of the murderer. In consequence, Wistan's 
venerable remains were taken up, and by the care of his rela- 
tions conveyed to Rependun ;* at that time a famous monas- 
tery, now a villa belonging to the earl of Chester, and its 
glory grown obsolete with age ; but at present thou dwellest 
at Evesham, kindly favouring the petitions of such as regard 

Bede has related many anecdotes of the sanctity of the 
kings of the East Saxons, and East Angles, whose genealogy 
I have in the first book of this work traced briefly ; because 
I could no where find a complete history of the kings. I 
shall however, dilate somewhat on St. Edmund, who held 
dominion in East Anglia, and to whom the time of Bede did 
not extend. This province, on the south and east, is sur- 
rounded by the ocean ; on the north, by deep lakes, and 
stagnant pools, which, stretching out a vast distance in 
length, with a breadth of two or three miles, afford abund- 
ance of fish for the use of the inhabitants ; on the west it 
is continuous with the rest of the island, but defended by 
the earth's being thrown up in the form of a rampart. f The 
soil is admirable for pasture, and for hunting ; it is full of 
monasteries, and large bodies of monks are settled on the 
islands of these stagnant waters ; the people are a merry, 
pleasant, jovial race, though apt to carr}'- their jokes to ex- 
cess. Here, then, reigned Edmund ; a man devoted to God, 
ennobled by his descent from ancient kings, and though he 
presided over the province in peace for several years, yet 
never through the effeminacy of the times did he relax his 
virtue. Hingwar and Hubba, two leaders of the Danes, came 
over to depopulate the provinces of the Northumbrians and 
East Angles. The former of these seized the unresisting 
king, who had cast away his arms and was lying on the 
ground in prayer, and, after the infliction of tortures,^ be- 
headed him. On the death of this saintly man, the purity of 
his past life was evidenced by unheard-of miracles. The 
Danes had cast away the head, when severed from the body 

* Repton. + Thought to be the Devil's Dyke, on Newmarket 


t He was tied to a tree, and shot to death with arrows. Abbo Floria- 


by the cruelty of the executioners, and it had been hidden in 
a thicket. While his subjects, who had tracked the footsteps 
of the enemy as they departed, were seeking it, intending to 
solemnize with due honour the funeral rites of their king, 
they were struck with the pleasing intervention of Grod : for 
the lifeless head uttered a voice, inviting all who were in 
search of it to approach. A wolf, a beast accustomed to 
prey upon dead carcasses, was holding it in its paws, and 
guarding it untouched ; which animal also, after the manner 
of a tame creature, gently followed the bearers to the tomb, 
and neither did nor received any injury. The sacred 
body was then, for a time, committed to the earth ; turf 
was placed over it, and a wooden chapel, of trifling cost, 
erected. The negligent natives, however, were soon made 
sensible of the virtue of the martyr, which excited their 
listless minds to reverence him, by the miracles which he 
performed. And though perhaps the first proof of his power 
may appear weak and trivial, yet nevertheless I shall subjoin 
it. He bound, with invisible bands, some thieves who had 
endeavoured to break into the church by night : this was 
done in the very attempt; a pleasant spectacle enough, to 
see the plunder hold fast the thief, so that he could neither 
desist from the enterprise, nor complete the design. In con- 
sequence, Theodred bishop of London, who lies at St. Paul's, 
removed the lasting disgrace of so mean a structure, by build- 
ing a nobler edifice over those sacred limbs, which evidenced 
the glory of his unspotted soul, by surprising soundness, and 
a kind of milky whiteness. The head, which was formerly 
divided from the neck, is again united to the rest of the body 
showing only the sign of martyrdom by a purple seam. One 
circumstance indeed surpasses human miracles, which is, that 
the hair and nails of the dead man continue to grow : these, 
Oswen, a holy woman, used yearly to clip and cut, that they 
might be objects of veneration to posterity. Truly this was 
a holy temerity, for a woman to contemplate and handle 
limbs superior to the whole of this world. Not so Leofstan, 
a youth of bold and untamed insolence, who, with many im- 
pertinent threats, commanded the body of the martyr to be 
shown to him ; for he was desirous, as he said, of settling 
the uncertainty of report by the testimony of his own eye- 
sight. He paid dearly, however, for his audacious experi- 


242 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. n. c. 13, 

ment ; for he became insane, and shortly after, died, swarming 
with vermin. He felt indeed that Edmund was now capable 
of doing, what he before used to do ; that is, 

" To spare the suppliant, but confound the proud," 

by which means he so completely engaged the inhabitants of 
aU Britain to him, that every person looked upon himself as 
particularly happy, in contributing either money or gifts to 
St. Edmund's monastery : even kings themselves, who rule 
others, used to boast of being his servants, and sent him their 
royal crown ; redeeming it, if they wished to use it, at a 
great price. The exactors of taxes also, who, in other places, 
gave loose to injustice, were there suppliant, and ceased their 
cavilling at St. Edmund's boundary,* admonished thereto by 
the punishment of others who had presumed to overpass it. 

My commendations shall also glance at the names of some 
maidens of the royal race, though I must claim indulgence 
for being brief upon the subject, not through fastidiousness, 
but because I am unacquainted with their miracles. Anna 
king of the East Angles had three daughters, Etheldrida, 
Ethelberga, and Sexberga. Etheldrida, though married to 
two husbands, yet by means of saintly continence, as Bede 
relates, without any diminution of modesty, without a single 
lustful inclination, triumphantly displayed to heaven the 
palm of perpetual virginity. Ethelberga, first a nun, and 
afterwards abbess, in a monastery in France called Brigis,| 
was celebrated for unblemished chastity ; and it is well wor- 
thy of remark, that as both sisters had subdued the lusts of 
the flesh while living, so, when dead, their bodies remained 
uncorrupt, the one in England, and the other in France ; in- 
somuch, that their sanctity, which is abundantly resplendent, 
may suffice 

" To cast its radiance over both the poles." 

Sexberga was married to Erconbert king of Kent, and, 
after his death, took the veil in the same monastery where 
her sister Etheldrida was proclaimed a saint. She had two 
daughters by king Erconbert, Earcongota and Ermenhilda. 

• This boundary is said to have been formed by Canute, in consequence 
of his father Sweyn having been killed by St. Edmund in a vision for 
attempting to plunder his territory. See Malm, de Gest. Pontif. lib. ii. 
f. 136, b. edit. Lond. + Faremoutier in Brie, 


Of Ercongota, such as wish for information will find it in 
Bede ; * Ermenhilda married Wulf here, king of the Mer- 
cians, and had a daughter, Werburga, a most holj virgin. 
Both are saints : the mother, that is to saj, St. Ermenhilda, 
rests at Ely, where she was abbess after her mother, Sex- 
berga ; and the daughter lies at Chester, in the monastery of 
that city, which Hugo earl of Chester, ejecting a few canons 
who resided there in a mean and irregular manner, has re- 
cently erected. The praises and miracles of both these 
women, and particularly of the younger, are there ex- 
tolled and held in veneration ; and though they are fa- 
vourable to aU petitions without delay, yet are they more 
especially kind and assistant to the supplications of women 
and youths. 

Merewald the brother of Wulfhere, by Ermenburga, the 
daughter of Ermenred brother of Erconbert king of Kent, 
had two daughters : Mildritha and Milburga. Mildritha, 
dedicating herself to celibacy, ended her days in the Isle of 
Thanet in Kent, which king Egbert had given to her mo- 
ther, to atone for the murder of her brothers, Ethelred and 
Ethelbert.f In after times, being transferred to St. Augus- 
tine's monastery at Canterbury, she is there honoured by the 
marked attention of the monks, and celebrated equally for 
her kindness and affability to all, as her name| implies. And 
although almost every corner of that monastery is filled with 
the bodies of saints of great name and merit, any one of 
which would be of itself sufficient to irradiate all England, 
yet no one is there more revered, more loved, or more grate- 
fully remembered ; and she, turning a deaf ear to none who 
love her, is present to them in the salvation of their souls. 

Milburga reposes at Wenlock ;§ formerly well known to the 
neighbouring inhabitants ; but for some time after the arri- 
val of the Normans, through ignorance of the place of her 
burial, she was neglected. Lately, however, a convent of 

* Hist. Eccl. b. iii. c. 8, p. 122. 

+ In b. i, c. 1, p. 15, it is said the compensation for their murder was made 
to their mother ; but here she is called their sister, which is the general ac- 
count. When it was left to her to estimate this compensation (i. e. their 
weregild), she asked as much land as her stag should compass, at one 
coiu^e, in the Isle of Thanet ; where she founded the monastery of Min- 
ster. Vide W. Thorn, col. 1910, and Natale S. Mildrythee (Saxonice), MS. 
Cott. Calig. A. xiv. 4. $ " Mild" gentle. $ In Shropshire. 

244 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [a. ii. c. 13. 

Clugniac monks being established there, while a new church 
was erecting, a certain boy running violently along the pave- 
ment, broke into the hollow of the vault, and discovered the 
body of the virgin ; when a balsamic odour pervading the 
whole church, she was taken up, and performed so many 
miracles, that the people flocked thither in great multitudes. 
Large spreading plains could hardly contain the troops of 
pilgrims, while rich and poor came side by side, one common 
faith impelling all. Nor did the event deceive their expect- 
ations : for no one departed, without either a perfect cure, 
or considerable abatement of his malady, and some were even 
healed of the king's evil, by the merits of this virgin, when 
medical assistance was unavailing. 

Edward the Elder, of whom I have before spoken at large, 
had by his wife Edgiva, several daughters. Among these 
was Eadburga, who, when she was scarcely three years old, 
gave a singular indication of her future sanctity. Her fa- 
ther was inclined to try whether the little girl was inclined 
to God, or to the world, and had placed in a chamber the 
symbols of diiferent professions ; on one side a chalice, and 
the gospels ; on the other, bracelets and necklaces. Hither 
the child was brought in the arms of her indulgent attendant, 
and, sitting on her father's knee, was desired to choose which 
she pleased. Rejecting the earthly ornaments with stern 
regard, she instantly fell prostrate before the chalice and the 
gospels, and worshipped them with infant adoration. The 
company present exclaimed aloud, and fondly hailed the 
prospect of the child's future sanctity ; her father embraced 
the infant in a manner still more endearing. " Go," said he, 
" whither the Divinity calls thee ; follow with prosperous 
steps the spouse whom thou hast chosen, and truly blessed 
shall my wife and myself be, if we are surpassed in holiness 
by our daughter." When clothed in the garb of a nun, she 
gained the affection of all her female companions, in the city 
of Winchester, by the marked attention she paid them. Nor 
did the greatness of her birth elevate her ; as she esteemed 
it noble to stoop to the service of Christ. Her sanctity in- 
creased with her years, her humility kept pace with her 
growth ; so that she used secretly to steal away the socks of 
the several nuns at night, and, carefully washing and anoint- 
ing them, lay them again upon their beds. Wherefore, 

A.D. 1065.] ST. EDITHA's CHASTITY. 245 

though God signalized her, while living, bj many miracles, 
yet I more particularly bring forward this circumstance, to 
show that charity began all her works, and humility com- 
pleted them : and finally, many miracles in her life-time, and 
since her death, confirm the devotion of her heart and the 
incorruptness of her body, which the attendants at her 
churches at Winchester and Pershore relate to such as are 
unacquainted with them. 

St. Editha, the daughter of king Edgar, ennobles, with 
her relics, the monastery of Wilton, where she was buried, 
and cherishes that place with her regard, where, trained from 
her infancy in the school of the Lord, she gained his favour 
by unsullied virginity, and constant watchings : repressing 
the pride of her high birth by her humility. I have heard 
one circumstance of her, from persons of elder days, wliich 
greatly staggered the opinions of men : for she led them into 
false conclusions from the splendour of her costly dress ; 
being always habited in richer garb than the sanctity of her 
profession seemed to require. On this account, being openly 
rebuked by St. Ethelwold, she is reported to have answered 
with equal point and wit, that the judgment of God was 
true and irrefragable, while that of man, alone, was fallible ; 
for pride might exist even under the garb of wretchedness : 
wherefore, " I think," said she, " tliat a mind may be as pure 
beneath these vestments, as under your tattered furs." The 
bishop was deeply struck by tliis speech ; admitting its truth 
by his silence, and blushing with pleasure that he had been 
chastised by the sparkling repartee of the lady, he held his 
peace. St. Dunstan had observed her, at the consecration of 
the church of St. Denys, which she had built out of affection 
to that martyr, frequently stretching out her right thumb, 
and making the sign of the cross upon her forehead ; and 
being extremely delighted at it, " May this finger," he ex- 
claimed, "never see corruption:" and immediately, while 
celebrating mass, he burst into such a flood of tears, that he 
alarmed with his faltering voice an assistant standing near 
him ; who inquiring the reason of it, " Soon," said he, " shall 
this blooming rose wither ; soon shall this beloved bird take 
its flight to God, after the expiration of six weeks from this 
time." The truth of the prelate's prophecy was very shortly 
fulfilled ; for on the appointed day, this noble, firmly-minded 

246 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b- "- c. 33. 

ladj, expired in her prime, at the age of twenty-three years. 
Soon after, the same saint saw, in a dream, St. Denys kindly 
taking the virgin by the hand, and strictly enjoining, by 
divine command, that she should be honoured by her servants 
on earth, in the same manner as she was venerated by her 
spouse and master in heaven. Miracles multiplying at her 
tomb, it was ordered, that her virgin body should be taken 
up, and exalted in a shrine ; when the whole of it was found 
resolved into dust, except the finger, with the abdomen and 
parts adjacent. In consequence of which, some debate ari- 
sing, the virgin herself appeared, in a dream, to one of those 
who had seen her remains, saying, " It was no wonder, if the 
other parts of the body had decayed, since it was customary 
for dead bodies to moulder to their native dust, and she, per- 
haps, as a girl, had sinned with those members ; but it was 
highly just, that the abdomen should see no corruption which 
had never felt the sting of lust ; as she had been entirely free 
from gluttony or carnal copulation." 

Truly both these virgins support their respective monas- 
teries by their merits ; each of them being filled with large 
assemblies of nuns, who answer obediently to the call of their 
mistresses and patronesses, inviting them to virtue. Happy 
the man, who becomes partaker of those virgin orisons which 
the Lord Jesus favours with kind regard. For, as I have 
remarked of the nuns of Shaftesbury, all virtues have long 
since quitted the earth, and retired to heaven ; or, if any 
where, (but this I must say with the permission of holy 
men,) are to be found only in the hearts of nuns ; and surely 
those women are highly to be praised, who, regardless of the 
weakness of their sex, vie with each other in the preservation 
of their continence, and by such means ascend, triumphant, 
to heaven. 

I think it of importance to have been acquainted with many 
of the royal family of either sex ; as it may be gathered 
from thence that king Edward, concerning whom I was 
spealdng before I digressed, by no means degenerated from 
the virtues of his ancestors. In fact he was famed both for 
miracles, and for the spirit of prophecy, as I shall hereafter 
relate. In the exaction of taxes he was sparing, and he 
abominated the insolence of collectors : in eating and 
drinking he was free from the voluptuousness which his 

■4. { 



state allowed : on the more solemn festivals, though dressed 
in robes intei-woven with gold, which the queen had most 
splendidly embroidered, yet still he had such forbearance, 
as to be sufficiently majestic, without being haughty ; con- 
sidering in such matters, rather the bounty of Gk)d, than the 
pomp of the world. There was one earthly enjoyment in 
which he chiefly delighted ; which was, hunting with fleet 
hounds, whose opening in the woods he used with pleasure 
to encourage : and again, with the pouncing of birds, whose 
nature it is to prey on their kindred species. In these 
exercises, after hearing divine service in the morning, he 
employed himself whole days. In other respects he was a 
man by choice devoted to God, and lived the life of an angel 
in the administration of his kingdom. To the poor and to 
the stranger, more especially foreigners and men of religious 
orders, he was kind in invitation, munificent in his presents, 
and constantly exciting the monks of his own country to 
imitate their holiness. He was of a becoming stature ; his 
beard and hair milk-white ; his countenance florid ; fair 
throughout his whole person ; and his form of admirable 

The happiness of his times had been revealed in a dream 
to Brithwin bishop of Wilton, who had made it public. 
For in the time of Canute, when, at Glastonbury, he was 
once intent on heavenly watchings, and the thought of the 
near extinction of the royal race of the Angles, which 
frequently distressed him, came into his mind, sleep stole 
upon him thus meditating ; when behold ! he was rapt on 
high, and saw Peter, the chief of the apostles, consecrating 
Edward, who at that time was an exile in Normandy, king ; 
his chaste life too was pointed out, and the exact period 
of his reign, twenty-four years, determined ; and, when 
inquiring about his posterity, it was answered, " The 
kingdom of the English belongs to God ; after you he will 
provide a king according to his pleasure." 

But now to speak of his miracles. A young woman had 
married a husband of her own age, but having no issue by 
the union, the humours collecting abundantly about her neck, 
she had contracted a sore disorder ; the glands swelling 
in a dreadful manner. Admonished in a dream to have the 
part affected washed by the king, she entered the palace, and 


the king himself fulfilled this labour of love, by rubbing the 
woman's neck with his fingers dipped in water. Joyous 
health followed his healing hand : the lurid skin opened, so 
that worms flowed out with the purulent matter, and the 
tumour subsided. But as the orifice of the ulcers was large 
and unsightly, he commanded her to be supported at the 
royal expense till she should be perfectly cured. However, 
before a week was expired, a fair, new skin returned, and 
liid the scars so completely, that nothing of the original 
wound could be discovered : and within a year becoming the 
mother of twins, she increased the admiration of Edward'^s 
holiness. Those who knew him more intimately, affirm that 
he often cured this complaint in Normandy : whence appears 
how false is their notion, who in our times assert, that the 
cure of this disease does not proceed from pers<^>nal sanctity, 
but from hereditary virtue in the royal line. 

A certain man, blind from some unknown mischance, had 
persisted in asserting about the palace, that he should be 
cured, if he could touch his eyes with the water in which 
the king's hands had been washed. This was frequently 
related to Edward, who derided it, and looked angrily on the 
persons who mentioned it ; confessing himself a sinner, and 
that the works of holy men did not belong to him. But the 
servants, thinking this a matter not to be neglected, tried the 
experiment when he was ignorant of it, and was praying in 
church. The instant the blind man was washed with the 
water, the long-enduring darkness fled from his eyes, and 
they were filled with joyful light ; and the king, inquiring 
the cause of the grateful clamour of the by-standers, was 
informed of the fact. Presently afterwards, when, by 
thrusting his fingers towards the eyes of the man he had 
cured, and perceiving him draw back his head to avoid 
them, he had made proof of his sight, he, with uplifted hands, 
returned thanks to God. In the same way he cured a blind 
man at Lincoln, who survived him many years, a proof of 
the royal miracle. 

That you may know the perfect virtue of this prince, in 
the power of healing more especially, I shall add something 
which will excite your wonder. Wulwin, surnamed Spille- 
corn, the son of Wulmar of Nutgareshale, was one day 
cutting timber in the wood of Bruelle, and indulging in a 

A.D. 1065.J KING Edward's "vasiONS. 249 

long sleep after his labour, lie lost his sight for seventeen 
years, from the blood, as I imagine, stagnating about his 
eyes : at the end of this time, he was admonished in a 
dream to go round to eighty-seven churches, and earnestly 
entreat a cure of his blindness from the saints. At last he 
came to the king's court, where he remained for a long time, 
in vain, in opposition to the attendants, at the vestibule of 
his chamber. He still continued importunate, however, 
without being deterred, till at last, after much difficulty, he 
was admitted by order of the king. When he had heard the 
dream, he mildly answered, " By my lady St. Mary, I shall 
be truly grateful, if God, through my means, shall choose to 
take pity upon a wretched creature." In consequence^ 
though he had no confidence in himself, with respect to 
miracles, yet, at the instigation of his servants, he placed his 
hand, dipped in water, on the blind man. In a moment the 
blood dripped plentifully from his eyes, and the man, restored 
to sight, exclaimed with rapture, " I see you, king ! I see 
you, O king ! " In this recovered state, he had charge of 
the royal palace at Windsor, for there the cure had been 
performed, for a long time ; surviving his restorer several 
years. On the same day, from the same water, three bhnd 
men, and a man with one eye, who were supported on the 
royal arms, received a cure ; the servants administering the 
healing water with perfect confidence. 

On Easter- day, he was sitting at table at Westminster, 
with the crown on his head, and surrounded by a crowd of 
nobles. While the rest were greedily eating, and making up 
for the long fast of Lent by the newly provided viands, he, 
with mind abstracted from earthly things, was absorbed in 
the contemplation of some divine matter, when presently he 
excited the attention of the guests by bursting into profuse 
laughter : and as none presumed to inquire into the cause of his 
joy, he remained silent as before, till satiety had put an end 
to the banquet. After the tables were removed, and as he 
was unrobing in his chamber, three persons of rank followed 
him ; of these earl Harold was one, the second was an abbat, 
and the third a bishop, who presuming on their intimacy 
asked the cause of his laughter, observing, that it seemed just 
matter of astonishment to see him, in such perfect tranquillity 
both of time and occupation, burst into a vulgar laugh, while 

250 "WILLIAM OF MAXMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 13- 

all others were silent. " I saw something wonderful," said 
he, "and therefore I did not laugh without a cause." At 
this, as is the custom of mankind, they began to inquire and 
search into the matter more earnestly, entreating that he 
would condescend to disclose it to them. After much reluct- 
ance, he yielded to their persevering solicitations, and re- 
lated the following wonderful circumstance, saying, that the 
Seven Sleepers in mount Coelius had now lain for two hun- 
dred years on their right side, but that, at the very hour of 
his laughter, they turned upon their left ; that they would 
continue to lie in this manner for seventy-four years, which 
would be a dreadful omen to wretched mortals. For every 
thing would come to pass, in these seventy-four years, which 
the Lord had foretold to his disciples concerning the end of 
the world ; nation would rise against nation, and kingdom 
against kingdom; earthquakes v/ould be in divers places; 
pestilence and famine, terrors from heaven and great signs ; 
changes in kingdoms ; wars of the gentiles against the Chris- 
tians, and also victories of the Christians over the pagans. 
Relating these matters to his wondering audience, he de- 
scanted on the passion of these sleepers, and the make of 
their bodies, though totally unnoticed in history, as readily 
as though he had lived in daily intercourse with them. On 
hearing this the earl sent a knight ; the bishop a clergyman ; 
and the abbat a monk, to Maniches the Constant] nopolitan 
emperor, to investigate the truth of his declaration ; adding 
letters and presents from the king. After being kindly 
entertained, Maniches sent them to the bishop of Ephesus, 
giving them at the same time what is called a holy letter, 
that the martyr-relics of the Seven Sleepers should be shown 
to the delegates of the king of England.* It fell out that 

* The Seven Sleepers were inhabitants of Ephesus ; six were persons of 
some consequence, the seventh their servant. During the Decian persecu- 
tion they retired to a cave, whence they despatched their attendant occasion- 
ally to purchase food for them. Decius, hearing this, ordered the mouth of the 
cave to be stopped up while the fugitives were sleeping. After a lapse of some 
hundred years, a part of the masonry at the mouth of the cave falling, the 
light flowing in awakened them. Thinking they had enjoyed a good night's 
rest, they despatched their servant to buy provision. He finds all appear 
strange in Ephesus, and a whimsical dialogue takes place, the citizens 
accusing him of having found hidden treasure, he persisting that he offered 
the current coin of the empire. At length the attention of the emperor 


the presage of king Edward was proved by all the Greeks, 
who could swear they had heard from their fathers that the 
men were lying on their right side ; hut after the entrance of 
the English into the vault, they published the truth of the 
foreign prophecy to their countrymen. Nor was it long be- 
fore the predicted evils came to pass ; for the Hagarens, and 
Arabs, and Turks, nations averse to Christ, making havoc of 
the Christians, overran Syria, and Lycia, and Asia Minor 
altogether, devastating many cities too of Asia Major, among 
which was Ephesus, and even Jerusalem itself At the same 
time, on the death of Maniches emperor of Constantinople, 
Diogenes, and Michaelius, and Bucinacius, and Alexius, in 
turn hurled each other headlong from the throne ; the last of 
whom, continuing till our time, left for heir his son John more 
noted for cunning and deceit than worth. He contrived 
many hurtful plots against the pilgrims on their sacred jour- 
ney; but venerating the fidelity of the English, he showed 
them every civility, and transmitted his regard for them to 
his son.* In the next seven years were three popes, Victor, 
Stephen, Nicholas,! who diminished the vigour of the papacy 
by their successive deaths. Almost immediately afterwards too 
died Henry, the pious emperor of the Romans, and had for suc- 
cessor Henry his son, who brought many calamities on the city 
of Rome by his folly and his wickedness. The same year 
Henry, king of France, a good and active warrior, died by poi- 
son. Soon after a comet, a star denoting, as they say, change in 
kingdoms, appeared trailing its extended and fiery train along 
the sky. Wherefore a certain monk of our monastery, | by 
name Elmer, bowing down with terror at the sight of the 
brilliant star, wisely exclaimed, " Thou art come ! a matter of 
lamentation to many a mother art thou come ; I have seen 

is excited, and he goes in company with the bishop to visit them. They 
relate their story and shortly after expire. In consequence of the miracle 
they were considered as martyrs. See Capgrave, Legenda Nova. 

* On the Norman conquest many English fled to Constantinople, where 
they were eagerly received by Alexius, and opposed to the Normans under 
Robert Guiscard. Orderic. Vitalis, p. 508. 

t Victor II. succeeded Leo IX. in 1056, and died in 1057. Stephen or 
Frederic, brother of duke Godefroi, succeeded Victor II. on the second of 
August, 1057, and Nicolaus became pope in 1059. 

:J: That is, of Malmesbury. This Elmer is not to be confoimded with 
Elmer or Ailmer prior of Canterbury. 

252' WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. |b. ii. c. 13. 

thee long since ; but I now behold thee much more terrible, 
threatening to hurl destruction on this country." He was a 
man of good learning for those times, of mature age, and in his 
early youth had hazarded an attempt of singular temerity. 
He had by some contrivance fastened wings to his hands and 
feet, in order that, looking upon the fable as true, he might 
fly like Dcedalus, and collecting the air on the summit of a 
tower, had flown for more than the distance of a furlong ; 
but, agitated by the violence of the wind and the current of 
air, as well as by the consciousness of his rash attempt, he 
fell and broke his legs, and was lame ever after. He used 
to relate as the cause of his failure, his forgetting to provide 
himself a tail. 

Another prophecy similar to this, Edward uttered when 
dying, which I shall here anticipate. When he had lain two 
days speechless, on the third, sadly and deeply sighing as he 
awoke from his torpor, " Almighty God," said he, " as this 
shall be a real vision, or a vain illusion, which I have seen, 
grant me the power of explaining it, or not, to the by- 
standers." Soon after speaking fluently, " I saw just now," 
continued he, " two monks near me, whom formerly, when 
a youth in Normandy, I knew both to have lived in a most 
religious manner, and to have died like perfect Christians. 
These men, announcing themselves as the messengers of God, 
spake to the following effect : ' Since the chiefs of England, 
the dukes, bishops, and abbats, are not the ministers of God, 
but of the devil, God, after your death, has delivered this 
kingdom for a year and a day, into the hand of the enemy, 
and devils shall wander over all the land.' And when I said 
that I would shoAv these things to my people ; and promised 
that they should liberate themselves by repentance, after the 
old example of the Ninevites ; ' Neither of these,' said they, 
' shall take place ; for they will not repent, nor will God 
have mercy on them.' When then, said I, may cessation 
from such great calamities be hoped for ? They replied, 
^ Whenever a green tree shall be cut through the middle, and 
the part cut off, being carried the space of three acres from 
the trunk, shall, without any assistance, become again united 
to its stem, bud out with flowers, and stretch forth its fruit, 
as before, from the sap again uniting ; then may a cessation 
of such evils be at last expected.' " 

A. D. 1065.] DEATH OF EDWARJ). 253 

Though others were apprehensive of the truth of this 
prediction, jet Stigand, at that time archbishop, received 
it with laughter ; saying, that the old man doted through 
disease. We, however, find the truth of the presage experi- 
mentally ; for England is become the residence of foreigners, 
and the property of strangers : at the present time, there is 
no Englishman, either earl, bishop, or abbat ; strangers all, 
they prey upon the riches and vitals of England ; nor is 
there any hope of a termination to this misery. The cause 
of which evil, as I have long since promised, it is now high 
time that my narrative should endeavour briefly to disclose. 

King Edward declining into years, as he had no children 
himself, and saw the sons of Godwin growing in power, de- 
spatched messengers to the king of Hungary, to send over 
Edward, the son of his brother Edmund, with all his family : 
intending, as he declared, that either he, or his sons, should 
succeed to the hereditary kingdom of England, and that his 
own want of issu« should be supplied by that of his kindred. 
Edward came in consequence, but died almost immediately 
at St. Paul's* in London : he was neither valiant, nor a man 
of abilities. He left three surviving children ; that is to 
say, Edgar, who, after the death of Harold, was by some 
elected king ; and who, after many revolutions of fortune, is 
now living wholly retired in the country, in extreme old age : 
Christina, who grew old at Romsey in the habit of a nun : 
Margaret, whom Malcolm king of the Scots espoused. Bless- 
ed with a numerous offspring, her sons were Edgar, and 
Alexander, who reigned in Scotland after their father in due 
succession : for the eldest, Edward, had fallen in battle with 
his father ; the youngest, David, noted for his meekness and 
discretion, is at present king of Scotland. Her daughters 
were, Matilda, whom in our time king Henry has married, 
and Maria, whom Eustace the younger, earl of Boulogne, 
espoused. The king, in consequence of the death of his rela- 
tion, losing his first hope of support, gave the succession of 
England to William earl of Normandy.j" He was well 
worthy of such a gift, being a young man of superior mind, 
who had raised himself to the highest eminence by his un- 

• Died and was buried at St. Paul's. Sax. Chron. A. 1057. 
t It is hardly necessary to observe, that the succession of William is one 
of the most obscure points in our history. 

254 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ix. c. 13. 

wearied exertion : moreover, he was liis nearest relation by 
consanguinity, as he was the son of Robert, the son of Richard 
the second, whom we have repeatedly mentioned as the 
brother of Emma, Edward's mother. Some affirm that 
Harold himself was sent into Normandy by the king for this 
purpose : others, who knew Harold's more secret intentions, 
say, that being driven thither against his will, by the violence 
of the wind, he imagined this device, in order to extricate 
himself. This, as it appears nearest the truth, I shall relate. 
Harold being at his country-seat at Boseham,* went for 
recreation on board a fishing boat, and, for the purpose of 
prolonging his sport, put out to sea ; when a sudden tempest 
arising, he was driven with his companions on the coast of 
Ponthieu. The people of that district, as was their native 
custom, immediately assembled from all quarters ; and 
Harold's company, unarmed and few in number, were, as it 
easily might be, quickly overpowered by an armed multitude, 
and bound hand and foot. Harold, craftily meditating a 
remedy for this mischance, sent a person, whom he had 
allured by very great promises, to William, to say, that he 
had been sent into Normandy by the king, for the purpose 
of expressly confirming, in person, the message which had 
been imperfectly delivered by people of less authority ; but 
that he was detained in fetters by Guy earl of Ponthieu, and 
could not execute his embassy : that it was the barbarous 
and inveterate custom of the country, that such as had escaped 
destruction at sea, should meet with perils on shore : that it 
well became a man of his dignity, not to let this pass un- 
punished : that to suffer those to be laden with chains, who 
appealed to his protection, detracted somewhat from his own 
greatness : and that if his captivity must be terminated by 
money, he would gladly give it to earl William, but not to 
the contemptible Guy. By these means, Harold was liberated 
at William's command, and conducted to Normandy by Guy 
in person. The earl entertained him with much respect, 
both in banqueting and in vesture, according to the custom 
of his country ; and the better to learn his disposition, and 
at the same time to try his courage, took him with him in an 
expedition he at that time led against Brittany. There, 
Harold, well proved both in ability and courage, won the 
* Near Chichester. 

A. D. 1CG6.1 HAKOLD. 255 

heart of the Norman ; and, still more to ingratiate himself, 
he of his own accord, confirmed to him by oath the castle of 
Dover, which was under his jurisdiction, and the kingdom 
of England, after the death of Edward. Wherefore, he was 
honoured both by having his daughter, then a child, be- 
trothed to him, and by the confirmation of his ample patri- 
mony, and was received into the strictest intimacy. Not 
long after his return home, the king was crowned* at Lon- 
don on Christmas-day, and being there seized with the 
disorder of which he was sensible he should die, he com- 
manded the church of Westminster to be dedicated on Inno- 
cents-day.f Thus, full of years and of glory, he surren- 
dered his pure spirit to heaven, and was buried on the day 
of the Epiphany, in the said church, which he, first in Eng- 
land, had erected after that kind of style wldch, now, almost 
all attempt to rival at enormous expense. The race of the 
West Saxons, which had reigned in Britain five hundred 
and seventy-one years, from the time of Cerdic, and two 
hundred and sixty-one from Egbert, in him ceased altogether 
to rule. For while the grief for the king's death was yet 
fresh, Harold, on the very day of the Epiphany, seized the 
diadem, and extorted from the nobles their consent ; though 
the EngUsh say, that it was granted him by the king : but I 
conceive it alleged, more through regard to Harold, than 
through sound judgment, that Edward should transfer Ms 
inheritance to a man of whose power he had always been 
jealous. Still, not to conceal the truth, Harold would have 
governed the kingdom with prudence and with courage, in 
the character he had assumed, had he undertaken it lawfully. 
Indeed, during Edward's lifetime, he had quelled, by Ins 
valour, whatever wars were excited against him ; wishing to 
signalize himself with his countrymen, and looking forward 

* It was customary for the king to wear his crown on the solemn festi- 
rals of Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas : it being placed on his head in 
due form by the archbishop. 

+ " Westminster Abbey was consecrated on the 28th of December, 1065. 
Ailred of Rievaulx, in his Life of Edward, states that the church had been 
commenced some years before, in performance of a vow the king had made 
to go to Rome ; but being dissuaded from it, he sent to the pope to obtain 
his dispensation from that journey ; the pope granted it, on condition that 
Edward should, with the money he would have spent in that voyage, build 
a monastery in honour of St. Peter." — Hardy. 

256 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. ii. c. 13. 

with anxious hope to the crown. He first vanquished 
Griffin king of the Welsh, as I have before related, in battle ; 
and, afterwards, when he was again making formidable 
efi*orts to recover his power, deprived him of his head ; ap- 
pointing as his successors, two of his own adherents, that is, 
the brothers of this Griffin, Blegent and Rivallo, who had 
obtained liis favour by their submission. The same year 
Tosty arrived on the Humber, from Flanders, with a fleet of 
sixty ships, and infested with piratical depredations those 
parts which were adjacent to the mouth of the river ; but 
being quickly driven from the province by the joint force of 
the brothers, Edwin and Morcar, he set sail towards Scot- 
land ; where meeting with Harold Harfager king of Nor- 
way, then meditating an attack on England with three hun- 
dred ships, he put himself under his command. Both, then, 
with united forces, laid waste the country beyond the Hum- 
ber ; and falling on the brothers, reposing after their recent 
victory and suspecting no attack of the land, they first 
routed, and then shut them up in York. Harold, on hear- 
ing this, proceeded thither with all his forces, and, each 
nation making every possible exertion, a bloody encounter 
followed : but the English obtained the advantage, and put 
the Norwegians to flight. Yet, however reluctantly posterity 
may believe it, one single Norwegian for a long time delayed 
the triumph of so many, and such great men. For standing 
on the entrance of the bridge, which is called Standford 
Brigge,* after having killed several of our party, he pre- 
vented the whole from passing over. Being invited to sur- 
render, with the assurance that a man of such courage 
should experience the amplest clemency from the English, he 
derided those who entreated him ; and immediately, with 
stern countenance, reproached the set of cowards who were 
unable to resist an individual. No one approaching nearer, 
as they thought it unadvisable to come to close quarters with 
a man who had desperately rejected every means of safety, 
one of the king's followers aimed an iron javelin at him from 
a distance ; and transfixed him as he was boastfully flourish- 
ing about, and too incautious from his security, so that he 
yielded the victory to the English. The army immediately 

* The battle of Stanford-bridge was fought on the 25th of September, 
1066. See Saxon. Chron. p. 440. 

A.D. 1066.] BATTLE OF HASTINGS. 257 

passing over without opposition, destroyed the dispersed and 
flying Norwegians. King Harfager and Tosty were slain ; 
the king's son, with all the ships, was kindly sent back to his 
own country. Harold, elated by his successful enterprise, 
vouchsafed no part of the spoil to his soldiers. Wherefore 
many, as they found opportunity, stealing away, deserted the 
king, as he was proceeding to the battle of Hastings. For 
with the exception of his stipendiary and mercenary soldiers, 
he had very few of the people* with him ; on which account, 
circumvented by a stratagem of William's, he was routed, 
with the army he headed, after possessing the kingdom nine 
months and some days. The effect of war in this affair was 
trifling ; it. was brought about by the secret and wonderful 
counsel of God : since the Angles never again, in any general 
battle, made a struggle for liberty, as if the whole strength 
of England had fallen with Harold, who certainly might and 
ought to pay the penalty of his perfidy, even though it were 
at the hands of the most unwarlike people. Nor in saying 
this, do I at all derogate from the valour of the Normans, to 
whom I am strongly bound, both by my descent, and for the 
privileges I enjoy. Stillf those persons appear to me to err, 
who augment the numbers of the EngHsh, and underrate 
their courage ; who, while they design to extol the Normans, 
load them with ignominy. A mighty commendation indeed ! 
that a very warlike nation should conquer a set of people 
who were obstructed by their multitude, and fearful through 
cowardice ! On the contrary, they were few in number and 
brave in the extreme ; and sacrificing every regard to their 
bodies, poured forth their spirit for their country. But, 
however, as these matters await a more detailed narrrative, 
I shall now put a period to my second book, that I may re- 
turn to my composition, and my readers to the perusal of it, 
with fresh ardour. 

* What Malmesbury here relates is highly probable, from the shortness 
of the time which elapsed from William's landing, to the battle of Hast- 
ings, — only fifteen days. In this period, therefore, the intelligence was to 
be conveyed to York, and Harold's march into Sussex to be completed ; 
of course few could accompany him, but such as were mounted. 

t Will. Picta^densis, to whom he seems here to allude, asserts that Harold 
had collected immense forces from all parts of England ; and that Den- 
mark had supplied him with auxiliaries also. But the circumstances men- 
tioned in the preceding note show the absurdity of this statement. 





Normans and English, incited by different motives, have 
written of king William : the former have praised him to 
excess ; extolling to the utmost both his good and his 
bad actions: while the latter, out of national hatred, have 
laden their conqueror with undeserved reproach. For my 
part, as the blood of either people flows in my veins, I shall 
steer a middle course: where I am certified of his good 
deeds, I shall openly proclaim them ; his bad conduct I 
shall touch upon lightly and sparingly, though not so as to 
conceal it ; so that neither shall my narrative be condemned 
as false, nor will I brand that man with ignominious cen- 
sure, almost the whole of whose actions may reasonably be 
excused, if not commended. Wherefore I shall willingly 
and carefully relate such anecdotes of him, as may be mat- 
ter of incitement to the indolent, or of example to the enter- 
prising ; useful to the present age, and pleasing to posterity. 
But I shall spend little time in relating such things as are of 
service to no one, and which produce disgust in the reader, 
as well as ill-will to the author. There are always people, 
more than sufficient, ready to detract from the actions of the 
noble : my course of proceeding will be, to extenuate evil, as 
much as can be consistently with truth, and not to bestow 
excessive commendation even on good actions. For this 
moderation, as I imagine, all true judges will esteem me 
"^either timid, nor unskilful. And this rule too, my history 
will regard equally, with respect both to William and his 
two sons ; that nothing shall be dwelt on too fondly ; nothing 
untrue shall be admitted. The elder of these did little wor- 
thy of praise, if we except the early part of his reign ; gain- 
ing, throughout the whole of his life, the favour of the 
military at the expense of the people. The second, more 
obsequious to his father than to his brother, possessed his 
spirit, unsubdued either by prosperity or adversity : on re- 
garding his warlike expeditions, it is matter of doubt, 
whether he was more cautious or more bold; on contem- 
plating their event, whether he was more fortunate, or un- 

Aa).1066.] WILLIAM THE FIRST. 259 

successful. There will be a time, however, when the reader 
may judge for himself. I am now about to begin mj third 
volume ; and I think I have said enough to make him atten- 
tive, and disposed to receive instruction: his own feelings 
will persuade him to be candid. 

Of William the First. [ a .d. 1 066— 1 087.] 

Robert, second son of Richard the Second, after he had, 
with great glory, held the duchy of Normandy for seven 
years, resolved on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He had, at 
that time, a son seven years of age, born of a concubine, 
whose beauty he had accidentally beheld, as she was dan- 
cing, and had become so smitten with it, as to form a con- 
nexion with her : after which, he loved her exclusively, and, 
for some time, regarded her as his wife. He had by her 
this boy, named, after his great-great-grandfather, William, 
whose future glory was portended to his mother by a dream ; 
wherein she imagined her intestines were stretched out, and 
extended over the whole of Normandy and England: and, 
at the very moment, also, when the infant burst into life and 
touched the ground, he filled both hands with the rushes 
strewed upon the floor, firmly grasping what he had taken 
up. This prodigy was joyfully witnessed by the women, 
gossipping on the occasion ; and the midwife hailed the pro- 
pitious omen, declaring that the boy would be a king. 

Every provision being made for the expedition to Jeru- 
salem,* the chiefs were summoned to a council at Feschamp, 
where, at his father's command, all swore fidelity to Wil- 
liam : earl Gilbert was appointed his guardian ; and the 
protection of the earl was assigned to Henry, king of 
France. While Robert was prosecuting his journey, the 
Normans, each in his several station, united in common for 
the defence of their country, and regarded their infant lord 
with great affection. This fidelity continued till the report 
was spread of Robert's death, upon which their affection 
changed with his fortune ; and then they began severally to 
fortify their towns, to build castles, to carry in provisions, 

* " Robert's expedition to Jerusalem was in 1035," (Bouq. 14, 420.) 

s 2 

260 W1LL1A3I OF MALMESBURY. [b. m. 

and to seek the earliest opportunities of revolting from the 
child. In the meantime, however, doubtlessly by the special 
aid of God who had destined him to the sovereignty of such 
an extended empire, he grew up uninjured; while Gilbert, 
almost alone, defended by arms what was just and right : 
the rest being occupied by the designs of their respective 
parties. But Gilbert being at this time killed by his cousin 
Rodulph, fire and slaughter raged on all sides. The coun- 
try, formerly most flourishing, was now torn with intestine 
broils, and divided at the pleasure of the plunderers ; so that 
it was justly entitled to proclaim, "Woe to the land whose 
sovereign is a child."* 

William, however, as soon as his age permitted, receiving 
the badge of knighthood from the king of France, inspirited 
the inhabitants to hope for quiet. The sower of dissension 
was one Guy, a Burgundian on his father's side, and grand- 
son to Richard the Second by his daughter. William and 
Guy had been children together, and at that time were 
equally approaching to manhood. Mutual intercourse had 
produced an intimacy between them which had ripened 
into friendship. Moreover, thinking, as they were related, 
that he ought to deny him nothing, he had given him the 
castles of Briony and Vernon. The Burgundian, unmindful 
of this, estranged himself from the earl, feigning sufficient 
cause of offence to colour his conduct. It would be tedious, 
and useless, to relate what actions were performed on either 
side, what castles were taken ; for his perfidy had found 
abettors in Nigel, viscount of Coutances, Ralph, viscount 
of Bayeux, and Haimo Dentatus, grandfather of Robert, 
who was the occupier of many estates in England in our 
time. With these persons, this most daring plunderer, al- 
lured by vain expectation of succeeding to the earldom, 
was devastating the whole of Normandy. A sense of duty, 
however, compelled the guardian-king to succour the des- 
perate circumstances of his ward. Remembering, therefore, 
the kindness of his father, and that he had, by his influence, 
exalted him to the kingdom, he rushed on the revolters at 
Walesdun. Many thousands of them were there slain ; 
many drowned in the river Orne, by its rapidity, while, 
being hard-pressed, they spurred their horses to ford the 
♦ Ecclesiast. x. 16. 

A.D. 10.17.] GEOFFREY, EAKL OF ANJOU. 261 

current. Guy, escaping with difficulty, betook himself to 
Briony; but was driven thence by William, and unable to 
endure this disgrace, he retired, of liis own accord, to Bur- 
gundy, his native soil. Here too his unquiet spirit found no 
rest; for being expelled thence by his brother, William, earl 
of that province, against whom he had conceived designs, it 
appears not what fate befell him. Nigel and Ralph were 
admitted to fealty: Haimo fell in the field of battle; after 
having become celebrated by liis remarkable daring for 
having unhorsed the king himself ; in consequence of which 
he was despatched by the surrounding guards, and, in ad- 
miration of his valour, honourably buried at the king's com- 
mand. King Henry received a compensation for this favour, 
when the Norman lord actively assisted him against Geof- 
frey Martel at Herle-Mill, which is a fortress in the country 
of Anjou. For William had now attained his manly vigour ; 
an object of dread even to his elders, and though alone, a 
match for numbers. Unattended he would rush on danger ; 
and when unaccompanied, or with only a few followers, dart 
into the thickest ranks of the enemy. By this expedition 
he gained the reputation of admirable bravery, as well as 
the sincerest regard of the king ; so that, with parental 
affection, he would often admonish him not to hold life in 
contempt by encountering danger so precipitately; a life, 
which was the ornament of the French, the safeguard of 
the Normans, and an example to both. 

At that time Geoffrey* was earl of Anjou, who had boast- 
ingly taken the surname of Martel, as he seemed, by a 
certain kind of good fortune, to beat down all his opponents. 
Finally, he had made captive, in open battle, his liege lord, 
the earl of Poitou ; and, loading him with chains, had com- 
pelled him to dishonourable terms of peace ; namely, that he 
should yield up Bourdeaux and the neighbouring cities, and 
pay an annual tribute for the rest. But he, as it is thought, 
through the injuries of his confinement and want of food, 
was, after three days, released from eternal ignominy by a 
timely death. Martel then, that his effrontery might be 
complete, married the stepmother of the deceased ; taking 
his brothers under his protection until they should be capa- 

* Geoffrey II., son of Foolques III., earl of Anjou, whom he suc- 
ceeded, A.D. 1040. 


ble of governing the principality. Next entering the terri- 
tories of Theobald, earl of Blois, he laid siege to the city of 
Tours; and while he was hastening to the succour of his 
subjects, made him participate in their afflictions ; for being 
taken, and shut up in prison, he ceded the city from himself 
and his heirs for ever. Who shall dare cry shame on this 
man's cowardice, who, for the enjoyment of a little longer 
life, defrauded his successors for ever of the dominion of 
so great a city? for although we are too apt to be severe 
judges of others, yet we must know, that we should consult 
our own safety, if we were ever to be placed in similar cir- 
cumstances. In this manner Martel, insolent from the ac- 
cession of so much power, obtained possession of the castle 
of Alenijon, even from the earl of Normandy ; its inhabitants 
being faithlessly disposed. Irritated at this outrage, William 
retaliated, and invested Danfrunt, which at that time be- 
longed to the earl of Anjou. Geoffrey, immediately, excited 
by the complaints of the besieged, hastily rushed forward 
with a countless force. Hearing of his approach, William 
sends Roger Montgomery* and WiUiam Fitz-Osberne to 
reconnoitre. They, from the activity of youth, proceeding 
many miles in a short time, espied Martel on horseback, and 
apprized him of the dauntless boldness of their lord. Martel 
immediately began to rage, to threaten mightily what he 
would do ; and said that he would come thither the next 
day, and show to the world at large how much an Angevin 
could excel a Norman in battle : at the same time, with un- 
paralleled insolence, describing the colour of his horse, and 
the devices on the arms he meant to use. The Norman 
nobles, with equal vanity, relating the same of William, 
return and stimulate their party to the conflict. I have 
described these things minutely, for the purpose of display- 
ing the arrogance of Martel. On this occasion, however, he 
manifested none of his usual magnanimity, for he retreated 
without coming to battle ; on hearing which, the inhabitants 

* " He was the son of Hugh de Montgomery and Jemima his wife, 
daughter of Turolf of Pont- Andomare, by Wora, sister of Gunnora, great- 
grandmother to the Conqueror. He led the centre of the ai-my ^t the bat- 
tle of Hastings, and was afterwards governor of Normandy, William the 
Conqueror gave him the earldoms of Arundel and Shrewsbury, See more 
of him in Sir H. Ellis's Introduction to Domesday, vol. i. p. 479." — 


of Alen9on surrendered, covenanting for personal safety; 
and, afterwards, those of Danfrunt also, listed under the 
more fortunate standard. 

In succeeding years William, earl of Arches, his illegiti- 
mate uncle, who had always been faithless and fluctuating 
from his first entrance on the duchy, rebelled against him ; 
for, even during the siege of Danfrunt, he had unexpectedly 
stolen away, and had communicated to many persons the 
secrets of his soul. In consequence of this, William had 
committed the keeping of his castle to some men, whom he 
had erroneously deemed faithful; but the earl, with his 
usual skill in deception, had seduced even these people to his 
party, by giving them many things, and promising them 
more. Thus possessed of the fortress, he declared war 
against his lord. William, with his customary alacrity, con- 
trary to the advice of his friends, laid siege to Arches, 
declaring publicly, that the miscreants would not dare at- 
tempt any thing, if they came into his sight. Nor was his 
assertion false: for more than three hundred soldiers, who 
had gone out to plunder and forage, the instant they beheld 
him, though almost unattended, fled back into their fortifi- 
cations. Being inclined to settle this business without blood- 
shed, he fortified a castle in front of Arches, and turned to 
matters of hostile operation which required deeper attention, 
because he was aware that the king of France, who had 
already become adverse to him from some unknown cause, 
was hastening to the succour of the besieged. He here gave 
an instance of very laudable forbearance ; for though he cer- 
tainly appeared to liave the juster cause, yet he was reluctant 
to engage with that person, to whom he was bound both by 
oath and by obligation. He left some of his nobility, how- 
ever, to repress the impetuosity of the king; who, falling 
into an ambush laid by their contrivance, had most de- 
servedly to lament Isembard, earl of Ponthieu, who was 
killed in his sight, and Hugh Bardulf, who was taken 
prisoner. Not long after, in consequence of his miscarriage, 
retiring to his beloved France, the earl of Arches, wasted 
with hunger, and worn to a skeleton, consented to surrender, 
and was preserved, life and limb, an example of clemency, 
and a proof of perseverance. During the interval of tliis 
siege, the people of the fortress called Moulin, becoming dis- 


affected, at the instigation of one Walter, went over to the 
king's side. An active party of soldiers was placed there, 
under the command of Guy, brother of the earl of Poitou, 
who diligently attended for some time to his miHtary duties : 
but on hearing the report of the victory at Arches, he stole 
away into France, and contributed, by these means, consider- 
ably to the glory of the duke. 

King Henry, however, did not give indulgence to inac- 
tivity ; but, muttering that his armies had been a laughing- 
stock to William, immediately collected all his forces, and, 
dividing them into two bodies, he over-ran the whole of 
Normandy. He himself headed all the military power which 
came from that part of Celtic Gaul which lies between the 
rivers Garonne and Seine ; and gave his brother Odo the 
command over such as came from that part of Belgic Gaul 
which is situated between the Rhine and the Seine. In like 
manner William divided his army, with all the skill he pos- 
sessed ; approaching by degrees the camp of the king, which 
was pitched in the country of Briony, in such a manner, as 
neither to come to close engagement, nor yet suffer the pro- 
vince to be devastated in his presence. His generals were 
Robert, earl of Aux ; Hugo de Gournay, Hugo de Montfort, 
and William Crispin, who opposed Odo at a town called 
Mortemar. Nor did he, relying on the numerous army 
which lie commanded, at all delay coming to action ; yet 
making only slight resistance at the beginning, and after- 
wards being unable to withstand the attack of the Normans, 
he retreated, and was himself the first to fly. And here, 
while Guy, earl of Ponthieu, was anxiously endeavouring to 
revenge his brother, he was made captive, and felt, together 
with many others surpassing in affluence and rank, the 
weight of that hand which was so fatal to his family. When 
William was informed of this success by messengers, he took 
care that it should be proclaimed in the dead of night, near 
the king's tent. On hearing which he retired, after some 
days spent in Normandy, into France ; and, soon after, am- 
bassadors passing between them, it was concluded, by treaty, 
that the king's partizans should be set at liberty, and that 
the earl should become legally possessed of all that had been, 
or should hereafter be, taken from Martel. 

It would be both tedious and useless, to relate their per- 

A.D. 1058.] FULK, EARL OF ANJOTJ. 265 

petual contentions, or how William always came off con- 
queror. What shall we say besides, when, magnanimously 
despising the custom of modern times, he never conde- 
scended to attack him suddenly, or without acquainting him 
of the day. Moreover, I pass by the circumstance of king 
Henry's again violating his friendship; his entering Nor- 
mandy, and proceeding through the district of Hiesmes to 
the river Dive, boasting that the sea was the sole obstacle 
to his farther progress. But William now perceiving him- 
self reduced to extremities by the king's perfidy, at length 
brandished the arms of conscious valour, and worsted the 
royal forces which were beyond the river — for part of them, 
hearing of his arrival, had passed over some little time be- 
fore — with such entire loss, that henceforth France had no 
such object of dread as that of irritating the ferocity of the 
Normans. The death of Henry soon following, and, shortly 
after, that of Martel, put an end to these broils. The dying 
king delegated the care of his son Philip, at that time ex- 
tremely young, to Baldwin earl of Flanders. He was a 
man equally celebrated for fidelity and wisdom; in the full 
possession of bodily strength, and also ennobled by a mar- 
riage with the king's sister. His daughter, Matilda, a wo- 
man who was a singular mirror of prudence in our time, 
and the perfection of virtue, had been already married to 
William. Hence it arose, that being mediator between his 
ward, and his son-in-law, Baldwin restrained, by his whole- 
some counsels, the feuds of the chiefs, and of the people. 

But since the mention of Martel has so often presented 
itself, I shall briefly trace the genealogy of the earls of 
Anjou,* as far as the knowledge of my informant reaches. 
Fulk the elder, presiding over that county for many years, 
until he became advanced in years, performed many great 
and prudent actions. There is only one thing for which I 
have heard him branded: for, having induced Herbert earl 
of Maine to come to Saintes, under the promise of yielding 
him that city, he caused him, in the midst of their conversa- 
tion, to be surrounded by his attendants, and compelled him 
to submit to his own conditions : in other respects he was 

* '' For an account of the earls of Anjou consult the Gesta Consulum 
Andegavensium, auctore Monacho Benedictino Majoris Mouasterii (apud 
Acheriuni, torn, iii.) " — Hardy. 


a man of irreproacliable integrity. In his latter days, he 
ceded his principality to Geoffrey his son so often mentioned. 
Geoffrey conducted himself with excessive barbarity to the 
inhabitants, and with equal haughtiness even to the person 
who had conferred this honour upon him : on which, being 
ordered by his father to lay down the government and en- 
signs of authority, he was arrogant enough to take up arms 
against him. The blood of the old man, though grown cold 
and languid, yet boiled with indignation ; and in the course 
of a few days, by adopting wiser counsels, he so brought 
down the proud spirit of his son, that after carrying his 
saddle* on his back for some miles, he cast himself with 
his burden at his father's feet. He, fired once more with 
his ancient courage, rising up and spurning the prostrate 
youth with his foot, exclaimed, " You are conquered at last ! 
you are conquered !" repeating his words several times. 
The suppliant had still spirit enough to make this admirable 
reply, "I am conquered by you alone, because you are my 
father ; by others I am utterly invincible." With this 
speech his irritated mind was mollified, and having con- 
soled the mortification of his son by paternal affection, he 
restored him to the principality, with admonitions to conduct 
himself more wisely : telling him that the prosperity and 
tranquillity of the people were creditable to him abroad, as 
well as advantageous at home. In the same year the old 
man, having discharged all secular concerns, made pro- 
vision-'for his soul, by proceeding to Jerusalem ; where com- 
pelling two servants by an oath to do whatever he com- 
manded, he was by them publicly dragged naked, in the 
sight of the Turks, to the holy sepulchre. One of them 
had twisted a withe about his neck, the other with a rod 
scourged his bare back, whilst he cried out, "Lord, receive 
the wretched Fulk, thy perfidious, thy runagate ; regard my 
repentant soul, O Lord Jesu Christ." At this time he ob- 
tained not his request; but, peacefully returning home, he 
died some few years after. The precipitate boldness of his 

* To carry a saddle was a punishment of extreme ignominy for certain 
crimes. See another instance in W. Gemeticensis, Du Chesne, p. 259, 
and Du Cange, in voce " Sella ;" who very justly supposes the disgrace 
to arise from the offender acknowledging himself a brute, and putting him- 
eelf entirely in the power of the person he had offended. 


son Geoffrey has been amply displayed in my preceding Ms- 
tory. He dying, bequeathed to Geoffrey, his sister's son, his 
inheritance, but his worldly industry he could not leave him. 
For being a youth of simple manners, and more accustomed 
to pray in church, than to handle arms, he excited the con- 
tempt of the people of that country, who knew not how to 
live in quiet. In consequence, the whole district becoming 
exposed to plunderers, Fulk, his brother, of his own ac- 
cord, seized on the duchy. Fulk was called Rhechin, from 
his perpetual growling at the simplicity of his brother, whom 
he finally despoiled of his dignity, and kept in continual cus- 
tody. He had a wife, who, being enticed by the desire of 
enjoying a higher title, deserted him and married Philip king 
of France ; who so desperately loved her, regardless of the 

" Majesty and love 
But ill accord, nor share the self-same seat," 

that he patiently suffered himself to be completely governed 
by her, though he was at the same time desirous of ruling 
over every other person. Lastly, for several years, merely 
through regard for her, he suffered himself to be pointed at 
like an idiot, and to be excommunicated from the whole 
Christian world. The sons of Fulk were Geoffrey and 
Fulk. Geoffrey obtaining the hereditary surname of Mar- 
tel, ennobled it by his exertions : for he procured such peace 
and tranquillity in those parts, as no one ever had seen, or 
will see in future. On this account being killed by the 
treachery of his people, he forfeited the credit of his con- 
summate worth. Fulk succeeding to the government, is yet 
living ;* of whom as I shall perhaps have occasion to speak 
in the times of king Henry, I will now proceed to relate 
what remains concerning William. 

When, after much labour, he had quelled all civil dissen- 
sion, he meditated an exploit of greater fame, and deter- 
mined to recover those countries anciently attached to Nor- 
mandy, though now disunited by long custom. I allude to 

* From this passage it is clear that Foulques IV. was still the reignin; 
earl of Anjou, which therefore proves that Malmesbury had finished tliis 
work before 1129, in which year Geoffrey le Bel, better known as GcoIElVJ 
Plantagenet, son of Foulques, became eari of Anjou." — Hardy. 


the counties of Maine and Brittany; of which Mans, long 
since burnt by Martel and deprived of its sovereign Hugo, 
had lately experienced some little respite under Herbert the 
son of Hugo ; who, with a view to greater security against 
the earl of Anjou, had submitted, and sworn fidelity to Wil- 
liam : besides, he had solicited his daughter in marriage, 
and had been betrothed to her, though he died by disease 
ere she Avas marriageable. He left William his heir, ad- 
juring his subjects to admit no other; telling them, they 
might have, if they chose, a mild and honourable lord ; 
but, should they not, a most determined assertor of his 
right. On his decease, the inhabitants of Maine rather in- 
clined to Walter of Mantes, who had married Hugo's sister : 
but at length, being brought to their senses by many heavy 
losses, they acknowledged William. This was the time, 
when Harold was unwillingly carried to Normandy by an 
unpropitious gale ; whom, as is before mentioned, William 
took with him in his expedition to Brittany, to make proof 
of his prowess, and, at the same time, with the deeper de- 
sign of showing to him his military equipment, that he 
might perceive how far preferable was the Norman sword 
to the English battle-axe. Alan, at that time, earl of Brit- 
tany, flourishing in youth, and of transcendent strength, had 
overcome his uncle Eudo, and performed many famous ac- 
tions ; and so far from fearing William, had even voluntarily 
irritated him. But he, laying claim to Brittany as his 
hereditary territory, because Charles had given it with his 
daughter, Gisla, to Rollo, shortly acted in such wise, that 
Alan came suppliantly to him, and surrendered himself and 
his possessions. And since I shall have but little to say of 
Brittany hereafter, I will here briefly insert an extraordinary 
occurrence, which happened about that time in the city of 

There were in that city two clerks, who though not yet of 
legal age, had obtained the priesthood from the bishop of 
that place, more by entreaty than desert : the pitiable death 
of one of whom, at length taught the survivor, how near 
they had before been to the brink of hell. As to the know- 
ledge of literature, they were so instructed, that they wanted 
little of perfection. From their earliest infancy, they had in 
such wise vied in offices of friendship, that according to the 

A.D. 1065] STORY OF TWO CLERKS. 269 

expression of the comic writer,* " To serve each other thej 
would not only stir hand and foot, but even risk the loss of 
life itself" Wherefore, one day, when they found their 
minds more than usually free from outward cares, they spoke 
their sentiments, in a secret place, to the following effect : 
" That for many years they had given their attention some- 
times to literature, and sometimes to secular cares ; nor had 
they satisfied their minds, which had been occupied rather in 
wrong than proper pursuits ; that in the meanwhile, the 
bitter day was insensibly approaching, which would burst 
the bond of union which was indissoluble while life remained : 
wherefore they should provide in time, that the friendship 
which united them while living should accompany him who 
died first to the place of the dead." They agreed, therefore, 
that whichever should first depart, should certainly appear to 
the survivor, either waking or sleeping, if possible within 
thirty days, to inform him, that, according to the Platonic tenet, 
death does not extinguish the spirit, but sends it back again, 
as it were from prison, to God its author. If this did not 
take place, then they must yield to the sect of the Epicureans, 
who hold, that the soul, liberated from the body, vanishes 
into air, or mingles with the wind. Mutually plighting their 
faith, they repeated this oath in their daily conversation. 
A short time elapsed, and behold a violent death suddenly 
deprived one of them of life. The other remained, and 
seriously revolving the promise of his friend, and constantly 
expecting his presence, during thirty days, found his hopes 
disappointed. At the expiration of this time, when, despair- 
ing of seeing him, he had occupied his leisure in other busi- 
ness, the deceased, with that pale countenance which dying 
persons assume, suddenly stood before him, when awake, and 
busied on some matter. The dead first addressing the living 
man, who was silent: "Do you know me ?" said he; "I 
do," replied the other ; " nor am I so much disturbed at 
your unusual presence, as I wonder at your prolonged ab- 
sence." But when he had accounted for the tardiness of his 
appearance ; " At length," said he, " at length, having over- 
come every impediment, I am present ; wliich presence, if 
you please, my friend, will be advantageous to you, but to 
me totally unprofitable ; for I am doomed, by a sentence 
* Terent. Aiiclr. iv. 1. 


which has been pronounced and approved, to eternal punish- 
ment." When the living man promised to give all his pro- 
perty to monasteries, and to the poor, and to spend days and 
nights in fasting and prayer, for the release of the defunct ; 
he replied, " What I have said is fixed ; for the j udgments 
of God, by which I am plunged in the sulphureous whirl- 
pool of hell, are without repentance. There I shall be tossed 
for my crimes, as long as the pole whirls round the stars, or 
ocean beats the shores. The rigour of this irreversible sen- 
tence remains for ever, devising lasting and innumerable 
kinds of punishment : now, therefore, let the whole world 
seek for availing remedies ! And that you may experience 
some little of my numberless pains, behold," said he, stretch- 
ing out his hand, dripping with a corrupted ulcer, " one of 
the very smallest of them ; does it appear trifling to you ?" 
When the other replied, that it did appear so ; he bent his 
fingers into the palm, and threw three drops of the purulent 
matter upon him ; two of which touching his temples, and 
one his forehead, penetrated the skin and flesh, as if with a 
burning cautery, and made holes of the size of a nut. When 
his friend acknowledged the acuteness of the pain, by the 
cry he uttered, " This," said the dead man, " will be a strong 
proof to you, as long as you live, of my pains ; and, unless 
you neglect it, a singular token for your salvation. Where- 
fore, while you have the power; while indignation is sus- 
pended over your head ; while God's lingering mercy waits 
for you ; change your habit, change your disposition ; be- 
come a monk at Rennes, in the monastery of St, Melanius." 
When the living man was unwilling to agree to these words, 
the other, sternly glancing at him, " If you doubt, wretched 
man," said he, " turn and read these letters ;" and with these 
words, he stretched out his hand, inscribed with black charac- 
ters, in which, Satan, and all the company of infernals sent 
their thanks, from hell, to the whole ecclesiastical body ; as 
well for denying themselves no single pleasure, as for sending, 
through neglect of their preaching, so many of their subject- 
souls to hell, as no former age had ever witnessed. With 
these words the speaker vanished ; and the hearer dis- 
tributing his whole property to the church and to the p6pr, 
went to the monastery ; admonishing all, who heard or saw 
him, of his sudden conversion, and extraordinary interview, 


SO that they exclaimed, " It is the right hand of the ALnighty 
that has done this." 

I feel no regret at having inserted this for the benefit of 
my readers : now I shall return to WilHam. For since I 
have briefly, but I hope not uselessly, gone over the transac- 
tions in which he was engaged, when only earl of Normandy, 
for thirty years, the order of time now requires a new series 
of relation ; that I may, as far as my inquiries have dis- 
covered, detect fallacy, and declare the truth relating to his 
regal government. 

When king Edward had yielded to fate, England, fluc- 
tuating with doubtful favour, was uncertain to which ruler 
she should commit herself : to Harold, William, or Edgar : 
for the king had recommended him also to the nobility, as 
nearest to the sovereignty in point of birth ; concealing his 
better judgment from the tenderness of his disposition. 
Wherefore, as I have said above, the English were distracted 
in their choice, although all of them openly wished well to 
Harold. He, indeed, once dignified with the diadem, thought 
nothing of the covenant between himself and William : he 
said, that he was absolved from liis oath, because liis daughter, 
to whom he had been betrothed, had died before she was 
marriageable. For this man, though possessing numberless 
good qualities, is reported to have been careless about ab- 
staining from perfidy, so that he could, by any device, elude 
the reasonings of men on this matter. Moreover, supposing 
that the threats of William would never be put into execution, 
because he was occupied in wars with neighbouring princes, 
he had, with his subjects, given full indulgence to security. 
For indeed, had he not heard that the king of Norway was 
approaching, he would neither have condescended to collect 
troops, nor to array them. William, in the meantime, began 
mildly to address him by messengers ;' to expostulate on the 
broken covenant ; to mingle threats with entreaties ; and to 
warn him, that ere a year expired, he would claim his due 
by the sword, and that he would come to that place, where 
Harold supposed he had firmer footing than himself. Harold 
again rejoined what I have related, concerning the nuptials 
of his daughter, and added, that he had been precipitate on 
the subject of the kingdom, in having confirmed to liim by 
oath another's right, without the universal consent and edict 


of the general meeting, and of the people : again, that a rash 
oath ought to be broken ; for if the oath, or vow, which a 
maiden, under her father's roof, made concerning her person, 
without the knowledge of her parents, was adjudged invalid ; 
how much more invalid must that oath be, which he had 
made concerning the whole kingdom, when under the king's 
authority, compelled bj the necessity of the time, and with- 
out the knowledge of the nation.* Besides it was an unjust 
request, to ask him to resign a government which he had 
assumed by the universal kindness of his fellow subjects, 
and which would neither be agreeable to the people, nor safe 
for the military. 

In this way, confounded either by true, or plausible, argu- 
ments, the messengers returned without success. The earl, 
however, made every necessary preparation for war during 
the whole of that year ; retained his own soldiers with in- 
creased pay, and invited those of others : ordered his ranks 
and battalions in such wise, that the soldiers should be tall 
and stout; that the commanders and standard-bearers, in 
addition to their military science, should be looked up to for 
their wisdom and age ; insomuch, that each of them, whether 
seen in the field or elsewhere, might be taken for a prince, 
rather than a leader. The bishops and abbats of those days 
vied so much in religion, and the nobility in princely libe- 
rality, that it is wonderful, f within a period of less than 
sixty J years, how either order should have become so un- 
fruitful in goodness, as to take up a confederate war against 
justice: the former, through desire of ecclesiastical promo- 
tion, embracing wrong in preference to right and equity; 
and the latter, casting oiF shame, and seeking every occasion 

* " These words seem to imply that the Great Council of the kingdom 
had never agreed to any settlement of the crown on the duke ; and with- 
out such sanction no oath made by Harold in favour of William would 
have been binding." — Hardy. 

+ Some copies omit from " it is wonderful," to " But," and substitute 

as follows : — " that in the course of a very few years, manf , if not 

all, things were seen changed in either order. The former became, in some 
respects, more dull but more liberal : the latter, more prudent in every 
thing, but more penurious ; yet both, in defending their country, valiant in 
battle, provident in counsel ; prepared to advance their own fortune, and 
to depress that of their enemies." 

J This passage enables us. to ascertain nearly the year in which William 
of Malmesbury's work was written. 


for begging money as for tlieir daily pay. But at that time 
the prudence of William, seconded by the providence of God, 
already anticipated the invasion of England; and that no 
rashness might stain his just cause, he sent to the pope, for- 
merly Anselm, bishop of Lucca, who had assumed the name 
of Alexander, alleging the justice of the war which he medi- 
tated with all the eloquence he was master of Harold 
omitted to do this, either because he was proud by nature, 
or else distrusted liis cause; or because he feared that his 
messengers would be obstructed by William and his parti- 
sans, who beset every port. The pope, duly examining the 
pretensions of both parties, delivered a standard to William, 
as an auspicious presage of the kingdom: on receiving 
which, he summoned an assembly of liis nobles, at Lillebourne, 
for the purpose of ascertaining their sentiments on this 
attempt. Ajid when he had confirmed, by splendid pro- 
mises, all who approved his design, he appointed them to 
prepare shipping, in proportion to the extent of their pos- 
sessions. Thus they departed at that time; and, in the 
month of August, re-assembled in a body at St. Yallery,* 
for so that port is called by its new name. Collecting, 
therefore, ships from every quarter, they awaited l^e pro- 
pitious gale which was to carry them to their destination. 
When this delayed blowing for several days, the common 
soldiers, as is generally the case, began to mutter in their 
tents, " that the man must be mad, who wished to subjugate 
a foreign country ; that God opposed him, who withheld the 
wind ; that his father purposed a similar attempt, and was 
in like manner frustrated ; that it was the fate of that family 
to aspire to things beyond their reach, and find God for their 
adversary." In consequence of these things, which were 
enough to enervate the force of the brave, being publicly 
noised abroad, the duke held a council with his chiefs, and 
ordered the body of St. Vallery to be brought forth, and to 
be exposed to the open air, for the purpose of imploring a 

* " There are two places called St. Valeri ; one in Picardy, situated at 
the mouth of the Somme, and formerly called Leugonaus ; the other is a 
large sea-port town, situated in Normandy, in the diocese of Rouen, and 
was formerly called S. Valeri les Plains, but now S. Valeri en Caux. It 
seems to be the former place to which Malmesbury here refers, ' In Pon- 
tivo apud S. Walericum in ancoris congrue stare fecit,' writes William of 
Jumieges." — Harby. 


wind. No delay now interposed, but the wisted-for gale 
filled their sails. A joyful clamour then arising, summoned 
every one to the ships. The earl himself first launcliing 
from the continent into the deep, awaited the rest, at anchor, 
nearly in mid-channel. All then assembled round the crim- 
son sail of the admiral's ship ; and, having first dined, they 
arrived, after a favourable passage, at Hastings. As he dis- 
embarked he slipped down, but turned the accident to his 
advantage; a soldier who stood near calling out to him, 
" you hold England,* my lord, its future king." He then 
restrained his whole army from plundering ; warning them, 
thai they should now abstain from what must hereafter be 
their own ; f and for fifteen successive days he remained so 
perfectly quiet, that he seemed to think of nothing less than 
of war. 

In the meantime Harold returned from the battle with 
the Norwegians ; happy, in his own estimation, at having 
conquered ; but not so in mine, as he had secured the victory 
by parricide. When the news of the Norman's arrival 
reached him, reeking as he was from battle, he proceeded to 
Hastings, though accompanied by very few forces. No 
doubt the fates urged him on, as he neither summoned his 

• This was said in allusion to the feudal investiture, or formal act of 
taking possession of an estate by the delivery of certain symbols. " This 
story, however, is rendered a little suspicious by these words being in exact 
conformity with those of Caesar, when he stumbled and fell at his landing 
in Africa, Teneo te, Africa. The silence of William of Poitou, who was 
the duke's chaplain, and with him at his landing, makes the truth of it still 
more doubtful," — Hardy. 

t " Whatever may have been the conqueror's orders, to restrain his 
army from plundering, it is conclusive, from the Domesday Survey, that 
they were of no avail. The whole of the country, in the neighboiu-hood of 
Hastings, appears to have been laid waste. Sir Henry Ellis, in the last 
edition of his General Introduction to Domesday, observes, that the de- 
struction occasioned by the conqueror's army on its first arrival, is apparent 
more particularly under HoUington, Bexhill, &c. The value of each 
manor is given as it stood in the reign of the conqueror ; afterwards it is 
said, ' vastatum fuit;' and then follows the value at the time of the survey. 
The situation of those manors evidently shows their devastated state to 
have been owing to the army marching over it ; and this clearly evinces 
another circumstance relating to the invasion, which is, that William did 
not land his army at one particular spot, at Bulwerhithe, or Hastings, as is 
supposed, — but at all the several proper places for landing along the coast, 
from Bexhill to Winchelsea." — Hardy. 

A.o. 1066.] HAKOLD's spies TAKEN. 275 

troops, nor, had lie been willing to do so, would he have 
found many ready to obey his call; so hostile were all to 
him, as I have before observed, from his having appropriated 
the northern spoils entirely to himself. He sent out some 
persons, however, to reconnoitre the number and strength of 
the enemy: these, being taken within the camp, William 
ordered to be led amongst the tents, and, after feasting 
them plentifully, to be sent back uninjured to their lord. 
On their return, Harold inquired what news they brought : 
when, after relating at full, the noble confidence of the 
general, they gravely added, that almost all his army had the 
appearance of priests, as they had the whole face, with both 
lips, shaven. For the English leave the upper lip unshorn, 
suifering the hair continually to increase; which Julius 
Caesar, in his treatise on the Gallic War,* affirms to have 
been a national custom with the ancient inhabitants of 
Britain. The king smiled at the simplicity of the relators, 
observing, with a pleasant laugh, that they were not priests, 
but soldiers, strong in arms, and invincible in spirit. His 
brother. Girth, a youth, on the verge of manhood, and of 
knowledge and valour surpassing his years, caught up his 
words : " Since," said he, " you extol so much the valour of 
the Norman, I think it ill-advised for you, who are his 
inferior in strength and desert, to contend with him. Nor 
can you deny being bound to him, by oath, either willingly, 
or by compulsion. Wherefore you will act wisely, if, your- 
self withdrawing from this pressing emergency, you allow us 
to try the issue of a battle. We, who are free from all obH- 
gation, shall justly draw the sword in defence of our country. 
It is to be apprehended, if you engage, that you will be 
either subjected to flight or to death: whereas, if we only 
fight, your cause will be safe at all events : for you will be 
able both to rally the fugitives, and to avenge the dead." 

His unbridled rashness yielded no placid ear to the words 
of his adviser, thinking it base, and a reproach to his past 
life, to turn his back on danger of any kind; and, with 
similar impudence, or to speak more favourably, imprudence, 
he drove away a monk, the messenger of William, not deign- 
ing him even a complacent look ; imprecating only, that God 
would decide between him and the earl. He was the bearer 
* Lib. V. c. 14. 


of three propositions ; either that Harold should relinquish 
the kingdom, according to his agreement, or hold it of 
William ; or decide the matter by single combat in the sight 
of either army. For William * claimed the kingdom, on the 
ground that king Edward, by the advice of Stigand, the 
archbishop, and of the earls Godwin and SiAvard, had 
granted it to him, and had sent the son and nephew of God- 
win to Normandy, as sureties of the grant. If Harold 
should deny this, he would abide by the judgment of the 
pope, or by battle : on all which propositions, the messenger 
being frustrated by the single answer I have related, re- 
turned, and communicated to his party fresh spirit for the 

The courageous leaders mutually prepared for battle, each 
according to his national custom. The English, as we have 
heard, passed the night without sleep, in drinking and sing- 
ing, and, in the morning, proceeded without delay towards 
the enemy ; all were on foot, armed with battle-axes, and 
covering themselves in front by the junction of their shields, 
they formed an impenetrable body, which would have se- 
cured their safety that day, had not the Normans, by a 
feigned flight, induced them to open their ranks, which till 
that time, according to their custom, were closely compacted. 
The king himself on foot, stood, with his brother, near the 
standard ; in order that, while all shared equal danger, none 
might think of retreating. This standard William sent, 
after the victory, to the pope ; it was sumptuously embroi- 
dered, with gold and precious stones, in the form of a man 

On the other side, the Normans passed the whole night 
in confessing their sins, and received the sacrament in the 
morning: their infantry, with bows and arrows, formed the 
vanguard, while their cavalry, divided into wings, were 
thrown back. The earl, with serene countenance, declaring 
aloud, that God would favour his, as being the righteous 
side, called for his arms; and presently, when, through the 

* This is from W. Pictaviensis, who puts it in the mouth of the con- 
queror, but it is evidently false; for Godwin died a.d. 1053, Siward a.d. 
1055, and in 1054 we find Edward the Confessor sending for his nephew 
from Hungary, to make him his successor in the kingdom, who, accord- 
ingly, arrives in a.d. 1057, and dies almost immediately after. He could 
not, therefore, have made the settlement as here asserted. 


hurry of his attendants, he had put on his hauberk the hind 
part before,* he corrected the mistake with a laugh ; saying, 
" My dukedom shall be turned into a kingdom." Then be- 
ginning the song of Roland, f that the warlike example of 
that man might stimulate the soldiers, and calling on God 
for assistance, the battle commenced on both sides. They 
fought with ardour, neither giving ground, for great part 
of the day. Finding this, William gave a signal to his party, 
that, by a feigned flight, they should retreat. Through tlus 
device, the close body of the English, opening for the pur- 
pose of cutting down the straggling enemy, brought upon 
itself swift destruction ; for the Normans, facing about, at- 
tacked them thus disordered, and compelled them to fly. In 
tliis manner, deceived by a stratagem, they met an honour- 
able death in avenging their country ; nor indeed were they 
at all wanting to their own revenge, as, by frequently making 
a stand, they slaughtered their pursuers in heaps : for, get- 
ting possession of an eminence, they drove down the Nor- 
mans, when roused with indignation and anxiously striving 
to gain the higher ground, into the valley beneath, where, 
easily hurUng their javelins and rolUng down stones on them 
as they stood below, they destroyed them to a man. Be- 
sides, by a short passage, with wliich they were acquainted, 
avoiding a deep ditch, they trod under foot such a multitude 
of their enemies in that place, that they made the hollow 
level with the plain, by the heaps of carcasses. This vicissi- 
tude of first one party conquering, and then the other, pre- 
vailed as long as the life of Harold continued ; but when he 
fell, from having his brain pierced with an arrow, the flight 
of the Enghsh ceased not until night. The valour of both 
leaders was here eminently conspicuous. ->'-^v,.. iv. •: u^'"- 
Harold, not merely content with the duty of a general in 
exhorting others, dihgently entered into every soldier-like 
office; often would he strike the enemy when coming to 
close quarters, so that none could approach him with im- 
punity; for immediately the same blow levelled both horse 
and rider. Wherefore, as I have related, receiving the fatal 

* As the armour of that time was of mail, this might easily happen. 

+ What this was is not known ; but it is supposed to have been a ballad 
or romance, commemorating the heroic achievements of the pretended 
ntphew of Charlemagne. 


arrow from a distance, he yielded to death. One of the 
soldiers with a sword gashed his thigh, as he lay prostrate ; 
for which shameful and cowardly action, he was branded 
with ignominy by William, and dismissed the service. 

William too was equally ready to encourage by his voice 
and by his presence; to be the first to rush forward; to 
attack the thickest of the foe. Thus everywhere raging, 
everywhere furious, he lost three choice horses, which were 
that day pierced under him. The dauntless spirit and 
vigour of the intrepid general, however, still persisted, 
though often called back by the kind remonstrance of his 
body-guard; he still persisted, I say, till approaching night 
crowned him with complete victory. And no doubt, the 
hand of God so protected him, that the enemy should draw 
no blood from his person, though they aimed so many jave- 
lins at him. 

This was a fatal day to England, a melancholy havoc of 
our dear country, through its change of masters. For it 
had long since adopted the manners of the Angles, which 
had been very various according to the times : for in the 
first years of their arrival, they were barbarians in their 
look and manners, warlike in their usages, heathens in their 
rites ; but, after embracing the faith of Christ, by degrees, 
and in process of time, from the peace they enjoyed, regard- 
ing arms only in a secondary light, they gave their whole 
attention to religion. I say nothing of the poor, the mean- 
ness of whose fortune often restrains them from overstepping 
the bounds of justice: I omit men of ecclesiastical rank, 
whom sometimes respect to their profession, and sometimes 
the fear of shame, suffer not to deviate from the truth: I 
speak of princes, who from the greatness of their power 
might have full liberty to indulge in pleasure; some of 
whom, in their own country, and others at Rome, changing 
their habit, obtained a heavenly kingdom, and a saintly 
intercourse. Many during their whole lives in outward 
appearance only embraced the present world, in order that 
they might exhaust their treasures on the poor, or divide 
them amongst monasteries. What shall I say of the multi- 
tudes of bishops, hermits, and abbats? Does not the whole 
island blaze with such numerous relics of its natives, that 
you can scarcely pass a village of any consequence but you 


hear the name of some new saint, besides the numbers of 
whom all notices have perished through the want of records ? 
Nevertheless, in process of time, the desire after literature 
and religion had decayed, for several years before the arrival 
of the Normans. The clergy, contented with a very slight 
degree of learning, could scarcely stammer out the words of 
the sacraments ; and a person who understood grammar, was 
an object of wonder and astonishment. The monks mocked 
the rule of their order by fine vestments, and the use of 
every kind of food. The nobility, given up to luxury and 
wantonness, went not to church in the morning after the 
manner of Christians, but merely, in a careless manner, 
heard matins and masses from a hurrying priest in their 
chambers, amid the blandishments of their wives. The 
commonalty, left unprotected, became a prey to the most 
powerful, who amassed fortunes, by either seizing on their 
property, or by selling their persons into foreign countries ; 
although it be an innate quality of this people, to be more 
inclined to revelling, than to the accumulation of wealth. 
There was one custom, repugnant to nature, which they 
adopted; namely, to sell their female servants, when preg- 
nant by them and after they had satisfied their lust, either 
to public prostitution, or foreign slavery. Drinking in par- 
ties was a universal practice, in which occupation they 
passed entire nights as well as days. They consumed their 
whole substance in mean and despicable houses ; unlike the 
Normans and French, who, in noble and splendid mansions, 
lived with frugality. The vices attendant on di'unkenness, 
which enervate the human mind, followed; hence it arose 
that engaging William, more with rashness, and precipitate 
fury, than military skill, they doomed themselves, and their 
country to slavery, by one, and that an easy, victory. " For 
nothing is less effective than rashness ; and what begins with 
violence, quickly ceases, or is repelled." In fine, the English 
at that time, wore short garments reaching to the mid-knee ; 
they had their hair cropped ; their beards shaven ; their arms 
laden with golden bracelets; their skin adorned with punc- 
tured designs. They were accustomed to eat till they be- 
came surfeited, and to drink till they were sick. These 
latter qualities they imparted to their conquerors ; as to the 
rest, they adopted their manners. I would not, however, 


have these bad propensities universally ascribed to the Eng- 
lish. I know that many of the clergy, at that day, trod the 
path of sanctity, by a blameless life; I know that many of 
the laity, of all ranks and conditions, in this nation, were 
well-pleasing to God. Be injustice far from this account; 
the accusation does not involve the whole indiscriminately. 
" But, as in peace, the mercy of God often cherishes the 
bad and the good together; so, equally, does his severity, 
sometimes, include them both in captivity." 

Moreover, the Normans, that I may speak of them also, 
were at that time, and are even now, proudly apparelled, 
delicate in their food, but not excessive. They are a race 
inured to war, and can hardly live without it ; fierce in rush- 
ing against the enemy ; and where strength fails of success, 
ready to use stratagem, or to corrupt by bribery. As I have 
related, they live in large edifices with economy ; envy their 
equals ; wish to excel their superiors ; and plunder their 
subjects, though they defend them from others ; they are 
faithful to their lords, though a slight ofience renders them 
perfidious. They weigh treachery by its chance of success, 
and change their sentiments with money. They are, however, 
the kindest of nations, and they esteem strangers worthy of 
equal honour with themselves. They also intermarry with 
their vassals. They revived, by their arrival, the observ- 
ances of religion, which were everywhere grown lifeless in 
England. You might see churches rise in every village, and 
monasteries in the towns and cities, built after a style un- 
known before ; you might behold the country flourishing 
with renovated rites ; so that each wealthy man accounted 
that day lost to him, which he had neglected to signalize by 
some magnificent action. But having enlarged sufficiently 
on these points, let us pursue the transactions of William. 

When his victory was complete, he caused his dead to be 
interred with great pomp ; granting the enemy the liberty of 
doing the like, if they thought proper. He sent the body of 
Harold* to his mother, who begged it, unransomed ; though 

* There seems to have been a fabulous story current during the twelfth 
century, that Harold escaped from the battle of Hastings. Giraldus Cam- 
brensis asserts, that it was believed Harold had fled from the battle-field, 
pierced with many wounds, and with the loss of his left eye ; and that he 
ended his days piously and virtuously, as an anchorite, at Chester. Both 

A.D. 1066.] William's coronation. 281 

she proffered large sums hj her messengers. She buried it, 
when thus obtained, at Waltham ; a church which he had 
built at his own expense, in honour of the Holy Cross, and 
had endowed for canons. William then, by degrees proceed- 
ing, as became a conqueror, with his army, not after an hos- 
tile, but a royal manner, journeyed towards London, the 
principal city of the kingdom ; and shortly after, all the 
citizens came out to meet him with gratulations. Crowds 
poured out of every gate to greet him, instigated by the 
nobility, and principally by Stigand, archbishop of Canter- 
bury, and Aldred, of York. For, shortly before, Edwin and 
Morcar, two brothers of great expectation, hearing, at Lon- 
don, the news of Harold's death, solicited the citizens to 
exalt one of them to the throne : faihng, however, in the 
attempt, they had departed for Northumberland, conjecturing, 
from their own feelings, that William would never come 
thither. The other chiefs would have chosen Edgar, had the 
bishops supported them ; but, danger and domestic broils 
closely impending, neither did this take effect. Thus the 
English, who, had they united in one opinion, might have 
repaired the ruin of their country, introduced a stranger, 
while they were unwilling to choose a native, to govern them. 
Being now decidedly hailed king, he was crowned on Christ- 
mas-day by archbishop Aldred ; for he was careful not to 
accept this office from Stigand, as he was not canonically an 

Of the various wars which he carried on, this is a sum- 
mary. Favoured by God's assistance, he easily reduced the 
city of Exeter,* when it had rebelled ; for part of the wall 

Knighton and Brompton quote this story. W. Pictaxnensis says, that Wil- 
liam refused the body to his mother, who offered its weight in gold for it, 
ordering it to be biu-ied on the sea-coast. In the Harleian MS. 3776, be- 
fore referred to, Girth, Harold's brother, is said to have escaped alive : 
he is represented, in his interview with Henry II. to have spoken myste- 
riously respecting Harold, and to have declared that the body of that prince 
was not at Waltham. Sir H. Ellis, quoting this MS., justly observes, that 
the whole was, probably, the fabrication of one of the secular canons, who 
were ejected at the re- foundation of Waltham Abbey in 1177." — Hardy. 

* Four manuscripts read Exoniam, and one, namely, that which was 
used by Savile, read Oxoniam. But Matthew Paris also seems to have 
read Ejconiam, for such is the text of the two best MSS. of that author. 
(Reg. 14, c. vii. and Cott. Nero, d. v.) Upon a passage in the Domse- 
day Siurvey, describing Oxford as containing 478 houses, which were so 


fell down accidentally, and made an opening for him. Li- 
deed he had attacked it with the more ferocity, asserting 
that those irreverent men would be deserted by God's favour, 
because one of them, standing upon the wall, had bared his 
posteriors, and had broken wind, in contempt of the Nor- 
mans. He almost annihilated the city of York, that sole re- 
maining shelter for rebellion, and destroyed its citizens with 
sword and famine. For there Malcolm, king of the Scots, 
with his party ; there Edgar, and Morcar, and Waltheof, 
with the English and Danes, often brooded over the nest of 
tyranny ; there they frequently killed his generals ; whose 
deaths, were I severally to commemorate, perhaps I should 
not be superfluous, though I might risk the peril of creating 
disgust ; while I should be not easily pardoned as an histo- 
rian, if I were led astray by the falsities of my authorities. 

Malcolm willingly received all the English fugitives, af- 
fording to each every protection in his power, but more es- 
pecially to Edgar, whose sister he had married, out of regard 
to her noble descent. On his behalf he burnt and plundered 
the adjacent provinces of England ; not that he supposed, by 
so doing, he could be of any service to him, with respect to 
the kingdom ; but merely to distress the mind of William, 
who was incensed at his territories being subject to Scottish 
incursions. In consequence, William, collecting a body of 
foot and horse, repaired to the northern parts of the island, 
and first of all received into subjection the metropolitan city, 
which English, Danes, and Scots obstinately defended ; its 
citizens being wasted with continued want. He destroyed 
also in a great and severe battle, a considerable number of 
the enemy, who had come to the succour of the besieged ; 
though the victory was not bloodless on his side, as he lost 

desolated that they could not pay gold. Sir H, Ellis remarks : " The extra- 
ordinary number of houses specified as desolated at Oxford, requires ex- 
planation. If the passage is correct, Matthew Paris probably gives us the 
cause of it, under the year 1067, when William the Conqueror subdued 
Oxford in his way to York : — ' Eodem tempore rex Willielmus urbem Ox- 
oniam sibi rebellem obsidione vallavit. Super cujus murum quidam, stans, 
nudato inguine, sonitu partis inferioris auras turbavit, in contemptum vide- 
licet Normannorum ; unde Willielmus in iram conversus, civitatem levi 
negotio subjugavit.' (Matt. P. ed. Watts, sub arm. 1067, p. 4.) The 
siege of Exeter in 1067 is also mentioned by Simeon of Durham, col. 197 ; 
Hoveden, col. 258 ; Ralph de Diceto, col. 482 ; Flor. of Worces. fol. 
Franc. 1601, p. 635 j and by Ordericus Vitalis, p. 510."— Hardy. 


many of his people. He then ordered both the towns and 
fields of the whole district to be laid waste ; the fruits and 
grain to be destroyed by fire or by water, more especially on 
the coast, as well on account of his recent displeasure, as be- 
cause a rumour had gone abroad, that Canute, king of Den- 
mark, the son of Sweyn, was approaching with his forces. 
The reason of such a command, was, that the plundering 
pirate should find no booty on the coast to take with him, if 
he designed to depart again directly ; or should be compelled 
to provide against want, if he thought proper to stay. Thus 
the resources of a province,* once flourishing, and the nurse 
of tyrants, were cut ofi" by fire, slaughter, and devastation ; 
the ground, for more than sixty miles, totally uncultivated 
and unproductive, remains bare to the present day. Should 
any stranger now see it, he laments over the once-magnifi- 
cent cities ; the towers threatening heaven itself with their 
loftiness ; the fields abundant in pasturage, and watered with 
rivers : and, if any ancient inhabitant remains, he knows it 
no longer. 

Malcolm surrendered himself, without coming to an en- 
gagement, and for the whole of William's time passed his 
life under treaties, uncertain, and frequently broken. But 
when in the reign of William, the son of William, he was 
attacked in a similar manner, he diverted the king from pur- 
suing him by a false oath. He was slain soon after, together 
with his son, by Robert Mowbray, earl of Northumberland, 
while, regardless of his faith, he was devastating the pro- 
vince with more than usual insolence. For many years, he 
lay buried at Tynemouth : lately he was conveyed by Alex- 
ander his son, to Dunfermlin, in Scotland. 

* Domesday Book bears ample testimony to this statement ; and that 
which closely follows, viz. that the resources of this once-flourishing pro- 
vince were cut off by fire, slaughter, and devastation ; and the ground, for 
more than sixty miles, totally uncultivated and unproductive, remains bare 
to the present day. The land, which had belonged to Edwin and Mortar 
in Yorkshire, almost everywhere in the Survey is stated to be wasta ; and 
in Amundemess, after the enumeration of no fewer than sixty-two places, 
the possessions in which amounted to one hundred and seventy carucates, 
it is said, ' Omnes hae villse jacent ad Prestune, et tres ecclesise. Ex his IG 
a paucis incoluntur, sed quot sint habitantes ignoratur. Reliqua sunt 
wasta.' Moreover, waski is added to numerous places belonging to the 
archbishop of York, St, John of Beverley, the bishop of Dvu-ham, and to 
those lands which had belonged to Waltheof, Gospatric, Siward, and Mer- 
lesweyne !— Hardy. 


Edgar, having submitted to the king with Stigand and Aldred 
the archbishops, violated his oath the following year, by going 
over to the Scot : but after living there some years, and acquiring 
no present advantage, no future prospects, but merely his daily 
sustenance, being willing to try the liberality of the Norman, 
who was at that time beyond the sea, he sailed over to him. 
They say this was extremely agreeable to the king, that Eng- 
land should be thus rid of a fomenter of dissension. Indeed 
it was his constant practice, under colour of high honour, to 
carry over to Normandy all the English he suspected, lest 
any disorders should arise in the kingdom during his absence. 
Edgar, therefore, was well received, and presented with a 
considerable largess : and remaining at court for many years, 
silently sunk into contempt through his indolence, or more 
mildly speaking, his simplicity. For how great must his 
simplicity be, who would yield up to the king, for a single 
horse, the pound of silver, which he received as his daily sti- 
pend ? In succeeding times he went to Jerusalem vsdth 
Robert, the son of Godwin,* a most valiant knight. This 
was the time when the Turks besieged king Baldwin, at 
Rama ; Avho, unable to endure the difficulties of a siege, rushed 
through the midst of the enemy, by the assistance of Robert 
alone, who preceded him, and hewed down the Turks, on 
either hand, with his drawn sword ; but, while excited to 
greater ferocity by his success, he was pressing on with too 
much eagerness, his sword dropped from his hand, and when 
stooping down to recover it, he was surrounded by a multi- 
tude, and cast into chains. Taken thence to Babylon, as they 
report, when he refused to deny Christ, he was placed as a 
mark in the middle of the market-place, and being transfixed 
with darts, died a martyr. Edgar, having lost his com- 
panion, returned, and received many gifts from the Greek 

* Fordun has a story of Edgar's being cleared from an accusation of 
treason against W. Rufus, by one Godwin, in a duel ; whose son, Robert, 
is afterwards described as one of Edgar's adherents in Scotland. L. v. 
c. 27—34. « The Saxon Chronicle states, that in the year 1106, he was 
one of the prisoners taken at the battle of Tinchebrai, in Normandy. Ed- 
gar is stated, by Dr. Sayers, in his Disquisitions, 8vo, 1808, p. 296, upon 
the authority of the Spelman MSS., to have again visited Scotland at a 
very advanced period of life, and died in that kingdom in the year 1120. 
If this date can be relied upon, the passage above noted would prove that 
Malmesbury had written this portion of his history before the close of that 
}ear." — Hardy. 

ji.D.1103.] OF EDWIN AND MORCAR. 285 

and German emperors ; who, from respect to his noble de- 
scent, would also have endeavoured to retain him with them ; 
but he gave up everj tiling, through regard to his native 
soil. " For, truly, the love of their country deceives some 
men to such a degree, that nothing seems pleasant to them, 
unless they can breathe their native air." Edgar, therefore, 
deluded by this silly desire, returned to England ; where, as 
I have before said, after various revolutions of fortune, he 
now grows old in the country in privacy and quiet. 

Edwin and Morcar were brothers ; the sons of Elfgar, the 
son of Leofric. They had received charge of the county of 
Northumberland, and jointly preserved it in tranquillity. 
For, as I have before observed, a few days previous to the 
death of St. Edward the king, the inhabitants of the north 
had risen in rebellion and expelled Tosty, their governor ; 
and, with Harold's approbation, had requested, and received, 
one of these brothers, as their lord. These circumstances, 
as we have heard from persons acquainted with the affair, 
took place against the inclination of the king, who was 
attached to Tosty ; but being languid through disease, and 
worn down with age, he become so universally disregarded, 
that he could not assist his favourite. In consequence, his 
bodily ailments increasing from the anxiety of his mind, he 
died shortly after. Harold persisted in his resolution of 
banishing his brother : wherefore, first tarnishing the 
triumphs of his family by piratical excursions, he was, as I 
have above written, afterwards killed with the king of 
Norway. His body being known by a wart between the 
shoulders, obtained burial at York. Edwin and Morcar, by 
Harold's command, then conveyed the spoils of war to 
London, for he liimself was proceeding rapidly to the battle 
of Hastings ; where, falsely presaging, he looked upon the 
victory as abeady gained. But, when he was there killed, 
the brothers, flpng to the territories they possessed, disturbed 
the peace of WilHam for several years ; infesting the woods 
with secret robberies, and never coming to close or open 
engagement. Often were they taken captive, and as often 
surrendered themselves, but were again dismissed with 
impunity, from pity to their youthful elegance, or respect to 
their nobility. At last, murdered, neither by the force nor 
craft of their enemies, but by the treachery of their 


partisans, their fate drew tears from tlie king, who would 
even long since have granted them matches with his 
relations, and the honour of his friendship, would they have 
acceded to terms of peace. 

Waltheof, an earl of high descent, had become extremely 
intimate with the new king, who had forgotten his former 
offences, and attributed them rather to courage, than to 
disloyalty. For Waltheof, singly, had killed many of the 
Normans in the battle of York ; cutting off their heads, one 
by one, as they entered the gate. He was muscular in the 
arms, brawny in the chest, tall and robust in his whole 
person ; the son of Siward, a most celebrated earl, whom, by 
a Danish term, they called " Digera," which implies Strong. 
But after the fall of his party, he voluntarily surrendered 
himself, and was honoured by a marriage with Judith, the 
king's neice, as well as with his personal friendship. Unable 
however to restrain his evil inclinations, he could not 
preserve his fidelity. For all his countrymen, who had 
thought proper to resist, being either slain, or subdued, he 
became a party even in the perfidy of Ralph de Waher ; but 
the conspiracy being detected,* he was taken ; kept in chains 
for some time, and at last, being beheaded, was buried at 
Croyland : though some assert, that he joined the league of 
treachery, more through circumvention than inclination. 
This is the excuse the English make for him, and those, of 
the greater credit, for the Normans affirm the contrary, to 
whose decision the Divinity itself appears to assent, showing 
many and very great miracles at his tomb : for they declare, 
that during his captivity, he wiped away his transgressions 
by his daily penitence. 

On this account perhaps the conduct of the king may 
reasonably be excused, if he was at any time rather severe 
against the English ; for he scarcely found any one of them 
faithful. This circumstance so exasperated his ferocious 
mind, that he deprived the more powerful, first of their 
wealth, next of their estates, and finally, some of them of 
their lives. Moreover, he followed the device of Caesar, who 

* « Earl WaHheof, or Wallef, as he is always styled in Domesday Book, 
was, accordin.!]; to the Saxon Chronicle, beheaded at Winchester on the 
31st May, 1076. The Chronicle of Mailros and Florence of Worcester, 
however, assign this event to the preceding year." — Hardy. 

A.D. 1074.] RALPH DE WALEE, 287 

drove out the Germans, concealed in the vast forest of 
Ardennes, whence they harassed his army with perpetual 
irruptions, not by means of his own countrymen, but by the 
confederate Gauls ; that, while strangers destroyed each 
other, he might gain a bloodless victory. Thus, I say, 
William acted towards the English. For, allowing the 
Normans to be unemployed, he opposed an English army, 
and an English commander, to those, who, after the first 
unsuccessful battle, had fled to Denmark and Ireland, and 
had returned at the end of three years with considerable 
force : forseeing that whichever side might conquer, it must 
be a great advantage to himself Nor did this device fail him ; 
for both parties of the EngHsh, after some conflicts between 
themselves, without any exertion on his part, left a victory 
for the king ; the invaders being driven to Ireland, and the 
royalists purchasing the empty title of conquest, at their own 
special loss, and that of their general. His name was 
Ednoth,* equally celebrated, before the arrival of the 
Normans, both at home and abroad. He was the father of 
Harding, who yet survives : a man more accustomed to 
kindle strife by his malignant tongue, than to brandish arms 
in the field of battle. Thus having overturned the power of 
the laity, he made an ordinance, that no monk, or clergyman, 
of that nation, should be suffered to aspire to any dignity 
whatever ; excessively differing from the gentleness of 
Canute the former king, who restored their honours, 
unimpaired, to the conquered : whence it came to pass, that 
at his decease, the natives easily expelled the foreigners, and 
reclaimed their original right. But William, from certain 
causes, canonically deposed some persons, and in the place of 
such as might die, appointed diligent men of any nation, 
except English. Unless I am deceived, their inveterate 
frowardness towards the king, required such a measure ; 
since, as I have said before, the Normans are by nature 
kindly disposed to strangers who live amongst them. 

Ralph, whom I mentioned before, was, by the king's gift, 
earl of Norfolk and Suffolk ; a Breton on his father's side ; 
of a disposition foreign to every thing good. This man. in 

* *' Harold's master of the horse. He was killed in 1068, in opposing 
the sons of Harold, when they came upon their expedition from Ireland." 
— Hardy. 


consequence of being betrothed to the king's relation, the 
daughter of William Fitz-Osberne, conceived a most unjust 
design, and meditated attack on the sovereignty. Wherefore, 
on the very day of liis nuptials, whilst splendidly banquet- 
ing, for the luxury of the English had now been adopted by 
the Normans, and when the guests had become intoxicated 
and heated with wine, he disclosed his intention in a copious 
harangue. As their reason was entirely clouded by drunken- 
ness, they loudly applauded the orator. Here Roger earl of 
Hereford, brother to the wife of Ralph, and here Waltheof, 
together with many others, conspired the death of the king. 
Next day, however, when the fumes of the wine had evapo- 
rated, and cooler thoughts influenced the minds of some of 
the party, the larger portion, repenting of their conduct, 
retired from the meeting. Among these is said to have been 
Waltheof, who, at the recommendation of archbishop Lan- 
franc, sailing to Normandy, related the matter to the king ; 
concealing merely his own share of the business. The earls, 
however, persisted in their design, and each incited liis de- 
pendents to rebel. But God opposed them, and brought all 
their machinations to nought. For immediately the king's 
officers, who were left in charge, on discovering the affair, 
reduced Ralph to such distress, that seizing a vessel at Nor- 
wich, he committed himself to the sea. His wife, covenanting 
for personal safety, and delivering up the castle, followed her 
husband. Roger being thrown into chains by the king, 
visited, or rather inhabited, a prison, during the remainder 
of his life ; a young man of abominable treachery, and by 
no means imitating his father's conduct. 

His father, indeed, William Fitz-Osberne,* might have 
been compared, nay, I know not if he might not even have 
been preferred, to the very best princes. By his advice, 
William had first been inspirited to invade, and next, assisted 
by his valour, to keep possession of England. The energy 
of his mind was seconded by the almost boundless liberality 
of his hand. Hence it arose, that by the multitude of soldiers, 
to whom he gave extravagant pay, he repelled the rapacity 
of the enemy, and ensured the favour of the people. In con- 

* " W, Fitz- Osbeme was only the father-in-law of Ralph de Guader.* 
— Haedy. 


sequence, by this boundless profusion, he incurred the king's 
severe displeasure ; because he had improvidently exhausted 
his treasures. The regulations which he established in his 
county of Hereford, remain in full force at the present day ; 
that is to say, that no knight* should be fined more than 
seven shilUngs for whatever offence : whereas, in other pro- 
vinces, for a very small fault in transgressing the commands 
of their lord, they pay twenty or twenty-five. Fortune, 
however, closed these happy successes by a dishonourable 
termination, when the supporter of so great a government, 
the counsellor of England and Normandy, went into Flan- 
ders, through fond regard for a woman, and there died by 
the hands of his enemies. For the elder Baldwin, of whom 
I have before spoken, the father of Matilda, had two sons .: 
Eobert, who marrying the countess of Frisia, while hi^ 
father yet lived, took the surname of Friso : Baldwin, who, 
after his father, presided some years over Flanders, and died 
prematurely. His two children by his wife Richelda surviv- 
ing he had entrusted the guardianship of them to Philip 
king of France, Avhose aunt was his mother, and to William 
Fitz-Osberne. William readily undertook this office, that he 
might increase his dignity by an union with Richelda. But 
she, through female pride, aspiring to things beyond her sex, 
and exacting fresh tributes from the people, excited them to 
rebellion. Wherefore despatching a messenger to Robert 
Friso, they entreat him to accept the government of the 
country ; and abjure all fidelity to Ai-nulph, who was already 
called earl. Nor indeed were there wanting persons to 
espouse the party of the minor : so that for a long time,, 
Flanders was disturbed by intestine commotion. This, Fitz- 
Osberne, who was desperately in love with the lady, could 
not endure, but entered Flanders with a body of troops ; 
and, being immediately well received by the persons he came 
to defend, after some days, he rode securely from castle to 
castle, in a hasty manner with few attendants. On the other 
hand, Friso, who was acquainted with this piece of folly, en- 

* There is considerable difficulty in distinguishing exactly the various 
meanings of the term " miles." Sometimes it is, in its legitimate sense, a 
soldier generally ; sometimes it implies a horseman, and frequently it is to 
be taken in its modem acceptation for a knight ; the latter appears to be 
the meaning here. 



trapped liim unawares by a secret ambush, and killed him, 
fighting bravely but to no purpose, together with his nephew 

Thus possessed of Flanders, he often irritated king William, 
by plundering Normandy. His daughter married Canute 
king of the Danes, of whom was born Charles,* who now 
rules in Flanders. He made peace with king Philip, giving 
him liis daughter-in-law in marriage, by whom he had Lewis, 
who at present reigns in France ; but not long after, being 
heartily tired of the match, because his queen was extremely 
corpulent, he removed her from his bed, and in defiance of 
law and equity, married the wife of the earl of Anjou. 
Robert, safe by his affinity with these princes, encountered 
nothing to distress him during his government ; though Bald- 
win, the brother of Arnulph, who had an earldom in the pro- 
vince of Hainault and in the castle of Valenciennes, by Wil- 
liam's assistance made many attempts for that purpose. 
Three years before his death, when he was now hoary- 
headed, he went to Jerusalem, for the mitigation of his trans- 
gressions. After his return he renounced the world, calmly 
awaiting his dissolution with Christian earnestness. His son 
was that Robert so universally famed in the expedition into 
Asia, which, in our limes, Europe undertook against the 
Turks ; but through some mischance, after his return home, 
he tarnished that noble exploit, being mortally wounded in a 
tournament, as they call it. Nor did a happier fate attend 
his son Baldwin, who, voluntarily harassing the forces of 
Henry king of England, in Normandy, paid dearly for his 
youthful temerity : for, being struck on the head with a pole, 
and deceived by the professions of several physicians, he lost 
his life ; the principality devolving on Charles, of whom we 
have spoken before. 

Now, king William conducting himself with mildness 
towards the obedient but with severity to the rebellious, pos- 
sessed the whole of England in tranquillity, holding all the 
Welsh tributary to him. At this time too, beyond sea, being 
never unemployed, he nearly annihilated the county of Maine, 

* " Charles, called the Good. He was the son of Canute IV, king of 
Denmark, and Adele, daughter of Robert le Prison. He succeeded Bou- 
douin VII, as earl of Flanders (17th June, 1119,) and died 2nd March, 
il27."— HAiiDir. 

A.D. 1073.1 DEFEAT OP THE DANES. 291 

leading thither an expedition composed of English ; who, 
though thej had been easily conquered in their own, yet 
always appeared invincible in a foreign country. He lost 
multitudes of his men at Dol,* a town of Brittany, whither, 
irritated by some broil, he had led a military force. He con- 
stantly found Philip king of France, the daughter of whose 
aunt he had married, unfaithful to him ; because he was en- 
vious of the great glory of a man who was vassal both to his 
father and to himself But William did not the less actively 
resist his attempts, although his first-born son Robert, 
through evil counsel, assisted him in opposition to his father. 
Whence it happened, that in an attack at Gerborai, the son 
became personally engaged with his father ; wounded him 
and killed his horse : William, the second son, departed with 
a hurt also, and many of the king's party were slain. In all 
other respects, during the whole of his life, he was so fortu- 
nate, that foreign and distant nations feared nothing more 
than his name. He had subdued the inhabitants so com- 
pletely to his will, that without any opposition, he first caused 
an account to be taken of every person ; compiled a register 
of the rent of every estate throughout England ;t and made 
all free men, of every description, take the oath of fidelity to 
him. Canute, king of the Danes, who was most highly ele- 
vated both by his afiinity to Robert Friso and by his own 
power, alone menaced his dignity ; a rumour being generally 
prevalent, that he would invade England, a country due to 
him from his relationship to the ancient Canute : and indeed 
he would have effected it, had not God counteracted his 
boldness by an unfavourable wind. But this circumstance 

• " King William now went over sea, and led his army to Brittany, and 
beset the castle of Do! ; but the Bretons defended it, until the king came 
from France ; whereupon king William departed thence, having lost there 
both men and horses, and many of his treasures, (Sax. Chron. a.d. 1 076.) 
This event is more correctly attributed by Florence and others to the pre- 
ceding year." — Hardy. 

t Domesday book. This invaluable record, which has been printed by 
order of the House of Commons, contains a smvey of the kingdom, noting, 
generally, for there are some variations in different counties, the proprietors 
and value of lands, both at the time of the survey and during the reign of 
Edward the Confessor, the quantity of arable, wood, and pasture, &c. the 
various kinds of tenants and slaves on each estate, and, in some instances, 
the stock ; also the number of hides at which it was rated, for the public 
service, with various other particulars. 



reminds me briefly to trace tlie genealogy of the Danish 
kings, who succeeded after our Canute ; adding at the same 
time, somewhat concerning the Norwegians. 

As it has been before observed, Harold succeeded in Eng- 
land; Hardecanute, and his sons, in Denmark: for Magnus 
the son of Olave, whom I have mentioned in the history of 
our Canute, as having been killed by his subjects, had re- 
covered Norway, which Canute had subdued. Harold dying 
in England, Hardecanute held both kingdoms for a short 
time. On his decease, Edward the Simple succeeded, who, 
satisfied with his paternal kingdom, despised his foreign domi- 
nions as burdensome and barbarous. One Sweyn, doubt- 
lessly a most exalted character, was then made king of the 
Danes.* When his government had prospered for several 
years, Magnus, king of the Norwegians, with the consent of 
some of the Danes, expelled him by force, and subjected the 
land to his own will. Sweyn, thus expelled, went to the 
king of Sweden, and collecting, by his assistance, Swedes, 
Vandals, and Goths, he returned, to regain the kingdom: 
but, through the exertions of the Danes, who were attached 
to the government of Magnus, he experienced a repetition 
of his former ill-fortune. This Avas a great and memorable 
battle among those barbarous people: on no other occasion 
did the Danes ever experience severer conflict, or happier 
success. Indeed, to this very time, tliey keep unbroken the 
vow, by which they had bound themselves, before the con- 
test, that they would consecrate to future ages the vigil of 
St. Lawrence, for on that day the battle was fought, by fast- 
ing and alms ; and then also Sweyn fled, but soon after, on 
the death of Magnus, he received his kingdom entire. 

To Magnus, in Norway, succeeded one Sweyn, surnamed 
Hardhand ; not elevated by royal descent, but by boldness 
and cunning : to him Olave, the uncle of Magnus, whom 
they call a saint; to Olave, Harold Harvagre, the brother 
of Olave, who had formerly, when a young man, served 
under the emperor of Constantinople. Being, at his com- 
mand, exposed to a lion, for having debauched a woman of 
quahty, he strangled the huge beast by the bare vigour of 
Ids arras. He was slain in England by Harold, the son of 

* Sweyn succeeded to the kingdom of Denmark on the death of 
ila^us in ] 047. 


Godwin. His sons, Olave and Magnus, divided the king- 
dom of their father ; but Magnus dying prematurely, Olave 
seized the whole. To him succeeded his son Magnus, who 
was lately miserably slain in Ireland, on which he had rashly 
made a descent. They relate, that Magnus, the elder son of 
Harold, was, after the death of his father, compassionately 
sent home by Harold, king of England ; and that in return 
for this kindness, he humanely treated Harold, the son of 
Harold, when he came to him after William's victory : tha 
he took him with him, in an expedition he made to England, 
in the time of William the younger, when he conquered the 
Orkney and Mevanian Isles,* and meeting with Hugo, earl 
of Chester, and Hugo, earl of Shrewsbury, put the first to 
flight, and the second to death. The sons of the last Mag- 
nus, Hasten and Siward, yet reign conjointly, having divided 
the empire: the latter, a seemly and spirited youth, shortly 
since went to Jerusalem, passing through England, and per- 
formed many famous exploits against the Saracens; more 
especially in the siege of Si don, whose inhabitants raged 
furiously against the Christians through their connection 
with the Turks. 

But Sweyn, as I have related, on his restoration to the 
sovereignty of the Danes, being impatient of quiet, sent his 
son Canute twice into England ; first with three hundred, 
and then with two hundred, ships. His associate in the 
former expedition was Osbern, the brother of Sweyn ; in 
the latter, Hacco : but, being each of them bribed, they frus- 
trated the young man's designs, and returned home without 
effecting their purpose. In consequence, becoming highly 
disgraced by king Sweyn for bartering their fidelity for 
money, they were driven into banishment. Sweyn, when 
near his end, bound all the inhabitants by oath, that, as he 
had fourteen sons, they should confer the kingdom on each 
of them in succession, as long as his issue remained. On 
his decease, his son Harold succeeded for three years : to 
him Canute, whom his father had formerly sent into Eng- 
land. Remembering his original failure, he prepared, as we 
have heard, more than a thousand vessels against England : 
his father-in-law, Eobert Friso, the possessor of six hundi-ed 
more, supporting him. But being detained, for almost two 
* Man and Anglesey. 

294 -mLLIAM OF MALMESBURT. [b. iii 

years, bj tiie adverseness of the wind, he changed his de- 
sign, affirming, that it must be by the determination of God, 
that he could not put to sea : but afterwards, misled by the 
suggestions of some persons, who attributed the failure of 
their passage to the conjurations of certain old women, he 
sentenced the chiefs, whose wives were accused of this trans- 
gression, to an intolerable fine ; cast his brother, Olave, the 
principal of the suspected faction into chains, and sent him 
into exile to his father-in-law. The barbarians^ in conse- 
quence, resenting this attack upon their liberty, killed him 
while in church, clinging to the altar, and promising repara- 
tion. The}'' say that many miracles were shown from heaven 
at that place; because he Avas a man strictly observant of 
fasting and almsgiving, and pursued the transgressors of the 
divine laws more rigorously than those who offended against 
himself; from which circumstance, he was consecrated a 
martyr by the pope of Rome. After him, the murderers, 
that they might atone for their crime by some degree of 
good, redeemed Olave from captivity, for ten thousand 
marks. After ignobly reigning during eight years, he left 
the government to his brother Henry : who living virtuously 
for twenty-nine years, went to Jerusalem, and breathed his 
last at sea. Nicholas, the fifth in the sovereignty, still 

The king of Denmark then, as I have said, was the only 
obstacle to William's uninterrupted enjoyment : on whose 
account he enlisted such an immense multitude of stipen- 
diary soldiers out of every province on this side the moun- 
tains, that their numbers oppressed the kingdom. But he, 
with his usual magnaminity, not regarding the expense, 
had engaged even Hugo the Great, brother to the king of 
France, with his bands to serve in liis army. He was ac- 
customed to stimulate and incite his own valour, by the 
remembrance of Robert Guiscard ; saying it was disgraceful 
to yield, in courage, to him whom he surpassed in rank. 
For Robert, born of middling parentage in Normandy, that 
is, neither very low nor very high, had gone, a few years 
before William's arrival in England, with fifteen knights, 
into Apulia, to remedy the narrowness of his own circum- 

• Nicolas reigned from a.d, 1105 to a.d. 1135, June 25, when he waa 

A.D. 1085.] ROBERT GUISCARD. 295 

stances, by entering into the service of that inactive race of 
people. Not many years elapsed, ere, by the stupendous 
assistance of God, he reduced the whole country under his 
power. For where his strength failed, his ingenuity was 
alert : first receiving the towns, and after, the cities into 
confederacy with him. Thus he became so successful, as 
to make himself duke of Apulia and Calabria ; his brother 
Richard, prince of Capua; and his other brother, Roger, 
earl of Sicily. At last, giving Apulia to his son Roger, he 
crossed the Adriatic with his other son Boamund, and taking 
Durazzo, was immediately proceeding against Alexius, em- 
peror of Constantinople, when a messenger from pope Hilde- 
brand stopped him in the heat of his career. For Henry, 
emperor of Germany, son of that Henry we have before 
mentioned, being incensed against the pope, for having ex- 
communicated him on account of the ecclesiastical investi- 
tures, led an army against Rome ; besieged it ; expelled 
Hildebrand, and introduced Guibert of Ravenna. Guiscard 
learning this by the letter of the expelled pope, left his son 
Boamund, with the army, to follow up his designs, and 
returned to Apulia; where quickly getting together a body 
of Apulians and Normans, he proceeded to Rome. Nor did 
Henry wait for a messenger to announce his approach ; but, 
affrighted at the bare report, fled with his pretended pope. 
Rome, freed from intruders, received its lawful sovereign ; 
but soon after again lost him by similar violence. Then too, 
Alexius, learning that Robert was called home by the ur- 
gency of his affairs, and hoping to put a finishing hand to 
the war, rushed against Boamund, who commanded the 
troops wliich had been left. The Norman youth, however, 
observant of his native spirit, though far inferior in number, 
turned to flight, by dint of military skill, the undisciplined 
Greeks and the other collected nations. At the same time, 
too, the Venetians, a people habituated to the sea, attacking 
Guiscard, who having settled the object of his voyage was 
now sailing back, met with a similar calamity : part were 
drowned or killed, the rest put to flight. He, continuing 
his intended expedition, induced many cities, subject to 
Alexius, to second his views. The emperor took off, by 
crime, the man he was unable to subdue by arms: falsely 
promising his wife an imperial match. By her artifices, he 


drank poison,* which she had prepared, and died ; deserving, 
had God so pleased, a nobler death : for he was unconquer- 
able by the sword of an enemy, but fell a victim to domestic 
treachery. He was buried at Venusium in Apuha, having 
the following epitaph : 

Here Guiscard lies, the terror of the world, 
Who from the Capitol Rome's sovereign hurl'd. 
No band collected could Alexis free, 
Flight only ; Venice, neither flight nor sea. 

And since mention has been made of Hildebrand, I shall re- 
late some anecdotes of him, which I have not heard trivially, 
but from the sober relation of a person who would swear 
that he had learned them from the mouth of Hugo abbat of 
Clugny ; whom I admire and commend to notice, from the 
consideration, that he used to declare the secret thoughts of 
others by the prophetic intuition of his mind. Pope Alex- 
ander, seeing the energetic bent of his disposition, had made 
him chancellor f of the holy see. In consequence, by virtue 
of his office, he used to go through the provinces to correct 
abuses. All ranks of people flocked to him, requiring judg- 
ment on various affairs; all secular power was subject to 
him, as well out of regard to his sanctity as his office. 
Whence it happened, one day, when there was a greater con- 
course on horseback than usual, that the abbat aforesaid, 
with his monks, was gently proceeding in the last rank ; and 
beholding at a distance the distinguished honour of this 
man, that so many earthly rulers awaited his nod, he was 
revolving in his mind sentiments to the following effect: 
" By what dispensation of God was this fellow, of diminu- 
tive stature and obscure parentage, surrounded by a retinue 
of so many rich men ? Doubtless, from having such a crowd 
of attendants, he was vain-glorious, and conceived loftier no- 
tions than were becoming." Scarcely, as I have said, had 
he imagined this in his heart, when the archdeacon, turning 
back his horse, and spurring him, cried out from a distance, 
beckoning the abbat, " You," said he, " you have imagined 
falsely, wrongly deeming me guilty of a thing of which I am 
innocent altogether; for I neither impute this as glory to 

* "Hoveden, who follows Malmesburv, adds that Alexius married, 
crowned, and then burnt alive his female accomplice." — Hardy. 
t Archdeacon, and afterwards chancellor. Baronius, x. 289, 

AD- 1085.] OF POPE GREGORY VII. 297 

myself, if glory that can be called which vanishes quickly, 
nor do I wish it to be so imputed by others, but to the 
blessed apostles, to whose servant it is exhibited." Redden- 
ing with shame, and not daring to deny a tittle, he replied 
only, " My lord, I pray thee, how couldst thou know the 
secret thought of my heart which I have communicated to 
no one?" "All that inward sentiment of yours," said he, 
" was brought from your mouth to my ears, as though by 
a pipe." 

Again, entering a country church, in the same province, 
they prostrated themselves before the altar, side by side. 
When they had continued their supplications for a long 
period, the archdeacon looked on the abbat with an angry 
countenance. After they had prayed some time longer, he 
went out, and asking the reason of his displeasure, received 
this answer, " If you love me, do not again attack me with 
an injury of this kind ; my Lord Jesus Christ, beautiful 
beyond the sons of men, was visibly present to my entreaties, 
listening to what I said and kindly looking assent ; but, at- 
tracted by the earnestness of your prayer, he left me and 
turned to you. I think you will not deny it to be a species 
of injury to take from a friend the author of his salvation. 
Moreover, you are to know that mortality of mankind and 
destruction hang over this place ; and the token by which I 
formed such a conclusion was my seeing the angel of the 
Lord standing upon the altar with a naked sword, and wav- 
ing it to and fro : I possess a more manifest proof of the 
impending ruin, from the thick, cloudy air which, as you see, 
already envelopes that province. Let us make haste to 
escape, then, lest we perish with the rest." Having said 
this, they entered an inn for refreshment ; but, as scon as 
food was placed before them, the lamentations of the house- 
hold took away their famished appetites : for first one, and 
then another, and presently many of the family suddenly 
lost their lives by some unseen disaster. The contagion 
then spreading to the adjoining houses, they mounted their 
mules, and departed, fear adding wings to their flight. 

Hildebrand had presided for the pope at a council in Gaul, 
where many bishops being degraded, for having formerly 
acquired their churches by simony, gave place to better men. 
There was one, to whom a suspicion of this apostacy at- 


taclied, but he could neither be convicted by any witnesses, 
nor confuted by any argument. When it was supposed he 
must be completely foiled, still like the slippery snake he 
eluded detection ,• so skilled was he in speaking, that he baf- 
fled all. Then said the archdeacon, " Let the oracle of God 
be resorted to, let man's eloquence cease ; we know for certain 
that episcopal grace is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that 
whosoever purchases a bishopric, supposes the gift of the 
Holy Ghost may be procured by money. Before you then, 
who are assembled by the will of the Holy Ghost, let him 
say, * Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the 
Holy Ghost,' and if he shall speak it articulately, and with- 
out hesitation, it will be manifest to me that he has obtained 
his office, not by purchase, but legally." He willingly ac- 
cepted the condition, supposing nothing less than any diffi- 
culty in these words; and indeed he perfectly uttered, 
" Glory be to the Father, and to the Son," but he hesitated 
at the " Holy Ghost." A clamour arose on all sides, but he 
was never able, by any exertion, either at that time or for 
the remainder of his life, to name the Holy Spirit. The 
abbat so often mentioned was a witness of this miracle ; who 
taking the deprived bishop with him into different places, 
often laughed at the issue of the experiment. Any person 
doubting the certainty of this relation, must be confuted by 
all Europe, which is aware that the numbers of the Clugniac 
order were increased by this abbat. 

On the death of Alexander, therefore, Hildebrand, called 
Gregory the Seventh, succeeded.* He openly asserted what 
others had whispered, excommunicating those persons who, 
having been elected, should receive the investiture | of their 
churches, by the ring and staff, through the hands of the 
laity. On this account Henry, emperor of Germany, being 
incensed that he should so far presume without his concur- 
rence, expelled him from Rome, as I observed, after the ex- 
piration of eleven years, and brought in Guibert. Not long 
after, the pope, being seized with that fatal disease which he 
had no doubt would be mortal, was requested by the cardinals 

• He was elected pope the 22nd of April, 1073, and died 25th May, 
1085.— Hardy. 

•[■ Investiture was a symbolical mode of receiving possession of a bene- 
fice, diguity, or office. 


to appoint his successor ; referring him to the example of St. 
Peter, who, in the church's earliest infancy, had, while yet 
living, nominated Clement. He refused to follow this ex- 
ample, because it had anciently been forbidden by councils : 
he would advise, however, that if they wished a person power- 
ful in worldly matters, they should choose Desiderius, abbat 
of Cassino, who would quell the violence of Guibert success- 
fully and opportunely by a military force ; but if they wanted a 
religious and eloquent man, they should elect Odo bishop of Os- 
tia. Thus died a man, highly acceptable to God, though perhaps 
rather too austere towards men. Indeed it is affirmed, that in 
the beginning of the first commotion between him and the em- 
peror, he would not admit him within his doors, though bare- 
footed, and carrying shears* and scourges, despising a man 
guilty of sacrilege, and of incest mth his own sister. The 
emperor, thus excluded, departed, vowing that this repulse 
should be the death of many a man. And immediately do- 
ing all the injury he was able to the Roman see, he excited 
thereby the favourers of the pope, on every side, to throw off 
their allegiance to himself; for one Rodulph, revolting at the 
command of the pope, who had sent him a crown in the 
name of the apostles, he was immersed on all sides in the 
tumult of war. But Henry, ever superior to ill fortune, at 
length subdued him and all others faithlessly rebelling. At 
last, driven from his power, not by a foreign attack, but the 
domestic hatred of his son, he died miserably. To Hilde- 
brand succeeded Desiderius, called Victor, who at his first 
mass fell down dead, though from what mischance is un- 
known ; the cup, if it be possible to credit such a thing, be- 
ing poisoned. The election then fell upon Odo, a French- 
man by birth, first archdeacon of Rheims, then prior of 
Clugny, afterwards bishop of Ostia, lastly pope by the name 
of Urban. 

Thus far I shall be pardoned, for having digressed, as 
from the mention of William's transactions, some things 
occurred which I thought it improper to omit : now, the 

• This seems intended to denote his absolute submission, and willingness 
to undergo anj^ kind of penance which might be enjoined upon him. Some- 
times excommunicated persons wore a halter about their necks ; sometimes 
they were shorn or scourged prior to receiving absolution. Vide Basnage, 
pref. in Canisium, p. 69, 70. 


reader, who is so inclined, shall learn the more common 
habits of his life, and his domestic manners. Above all 
then, he was humble to the servants of God ; affable to the 
obedient ; inexorable to the rebellious. He attended the 
offices of the Christian religion, as much as a secular was 
able ; so that he daily was present at mass, and heard 
vespers and matins. He built one monastery in England, 
and another in Normandy ; that at Caen * first, which he 
dedicated to St. Stephen, and endowed with suitable estates, 
and most magnificent presents. There he appointed Lan- 
franc, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, abbat : a man 
worthy to be compared to the ancients, in knowledge, and in 
rehgion : of whom it may be truly said, " Cato the third is 
descended from heaven ; " so much had an heavenly savour 
tinctured his heart and tongue ; so much was the whole 
Western world excited to the knowledge of the liberal arts, 
by his learning ; and so earnestly did the monastic profession 
labour in the work of religion, either from his example, or 
authority. No sinister means profited a bishop in those 
days ; nor could an abbat procure advancement by purchase. 
He who had the best report for undeviating sanctity, was 
most honoured, and most esteemed both by the king and by 
the archbishop. William built another monastery near 
Hastings, dedicated to St. Martin, which was also called 
Battle, because there the principal church stands on the very 
spot, where, as they report, Harold was found in the thickest 
heaps of the slain. When little more than a boy, yet gifted 
with the wisdom of age, he removed his uncle Malger, from 
the archbishopric of Rouen. He was a man not ordinarily 
learned, but, through his high rank, forgetful of his pro- 
fession, he gave too much attention to hunting and hawking ; 
and consumed the treasures of the church in riotous living. 
The fame of this getting abroad, he never, during his whole 
Hfe-time, obtained the pall, because the holy see refused the 
distinction of that honour, to a man who neglected his 
sacred office. Wherefore being frequently cited, his nephew 

* " The abbey of St. Stephen's, Caen, is stated to have been completed 
in 1064, but when it was dedicated is not accurately known : some fix the 
dedication in 1073, others in 1081, and Orderic in 1077. There was, 
however, a foundation charter granted subsequently to 1066, for in it 
William styles himself long." — Hardy. 


reprehending his offences, and still conducting himself in 
the same manner, he was, from the urgency of the case, 
ultimately degraded. Some report that there was a secret 
reason for his being deprived : that Matilda, whom William 
had married, was very nearly related to him : that Malger, 
in consequence, through zeal for the Christian foith, could 
not endure that they should riot in the bed of consanguinity ; 
and that he hurled the weapon of excommunication against 
his nephew, and his consort : that, when the anger of the 
young man was roused by the complaints of his wife, an 
occasion was sought out, through which the persecutor of 
their crime might be driven from his see : bat that 
afterwards, in riper years, for the expiation of their offence, 
he built the monastery to St. Stephen at Caen ; and she also 
one, in the same town, to the Holy Trinity ; * each of them 
choosing the inmates according to their own sex. 

To Malger succeeded Maurilius of Feschamp ; a monk 
commendable for many virtues, but principally for his 
abstinence. After a holy and well-spent life, when he 
came, by the call of God, to his end, bereft of vital breath, 
he lay, as it were, dead for almost half a day. Nevertheless, 
when preparation was made to carry liim into the church, 
recovering his breath, he bathed the by-standers in tears of 
joy, and comforted them, when lost in amazement, with this 
address: "Let your minds be attentive while you hear, the 
last words of your pastor. I have died a natural death, but 
I am come back, to relate to you what I have seen ; yet shall 
I not continue with you long, because it delights me to sleep 
in the Lord. The conductors of my spirit were adorned with 
every elegance both of countenance and attire ; the gentleness 
of their speech accorded with the splendour of their garments; 
so much so, that I could wish for nothing more than the 
attentions of such men. Delighted therefore with their 
soothing approbation, I went, as it appeared to me, towards 
the east. A seat in paradise Avas promised me, which I was 
shortly to enter. In a moment, passing over Europe and 

* "The convent of the Holy Trinity was founded by Matilda 1066^ and 
its church dedicated on the 18th of June in that year. Duke William on 
the same day, presenting at the altar his infant daughter Cecilia, devoted 
her to the service of God in this monastery, where she became the second 
abbess." — Hardy. 


entering Asia, we came to Jerusalem ; where, having 
worshipped the saints, we proceeded to Jordan. The 
residents on the hither bank joining company with my 
conductors, made a joyful party. I was now hastening to pass 
over the river, through longing desire to see what was 
beyond it, Avhen my companions informed me, that God had 
commanded, that I must first be terrified by the sight of the 
demons ; in order that the venial sins, which I had not 
wiped out by confession, might be expiated, by the dread of 
terrific forms. As soon as this was said, there came opposite 
to me, such a multitude of devils, brandishing pointed 
weapons, and breathing out fire, that the plain appeared like 
steel, and the air like flame. I was so dreadfully alarmed at 
them, that had the earth clave asunder, or the heaven 
opened, I should not have known whither to have betaken 
myself for safety. Thus panic-struck, and doubting whither 
to go, I suddenly recovered my life, though instantaneously 
about to lose it again, that by this relation I might be 
serviceable to your salvation, unless you neglect it : " and 
almost as soon as he had so said, he breathed out his soul. 
His body, then buried under ground, in the church of St. 
Mary, is now, by divine miracle, as they report, raised up 
more than three feet above the earth. 

Moreover, William, following up the design he had 
formerly begun in Normandy, permitted Stigand, the 
pretended and false archbishop, to be deposed by the Roman 
cardinals and by Ermenfred bishop of Sion. Walkelin 
succeeded him at Winchester, whose good works, surpassing 
fame, will resist the power of oblivion, as long as the 
episcopal see shall there continue : in Kent succeeded 
Lanfranc, of Avhom I have before spoken, who was, by the 
gift of God, as resplendent in England, 

As Lucifer, who bids the stars retire, 
Day's rosy harbinger with purple fire ; 

SO much did the monastic germ sprout by his care, so 
strongly grew the pontifical power while he survived. The 
king Avas observant of his advice in such A^ise, that he 
deemed it proper to concede whatever Lanfranc asserted 
ought to be done. At his instigation also was abolished the 
infamous custom of those ill-disposed people who used to sell 
their slaves into Ireland. The credit of this action, I know 


not exactly whether to attribute to Lanfranc, or to Wulstan 
bishop of Worcester ; who would scarcely have induced the 
king, reluctant from the profit it produced him, to this 
measure, had not Lanfranc commended it, and Wulstan, 
powerful from his sanctity of character, commanded it by 
episcopal authority : Wulstan, than whom none could be 
more just ; nor could any in our time equal him in the power 
of miracles, or the gift of prophecy : of which I propose 
hereafter to relate some particulars, should it meet his most 
holy approbation. 

But since the die of fortune is subject to uncertain casts, 
many adverse circumstances happened during those times. 
There was a disgraceful contention* between the abbat of 
Glastonbury and his monks ; so that after altercation they 
came to blows. The monks being driven into the church, 
bewailed their miseries at the holy altar. The soldiers, rush- 
ing in, slew two of them, wounded fourteen, and drove away 
the rest. Nay the rage of the military had even bristled 
the crucifix with arrows. The abbat, rendered infamous by 
such a criminal outrage, was driven into exile during the 
whole of the king's life ; but, upon his decease, he was re- 
stored to his honours, a sum of money being paid to such as 
interceded for him, for the expiation of his transgression. 

Again, a cruel and ignominious end overtook Walker 
bishop of Durham, whom the Northumbrians, a people ever 
ripe for rebellion, throwing off all respect for his holy orders, 
put to death, after having severely insulted him. A consi- 
derable number of Lorrainers were killed there also, for the 
bishop was of that country. The cause of the murder was 
this. The bishop, independently of his see, was warder f of 
the whole county : over public business he had set his rela- 
tion Gilbert, and over domestic, the canon Leobin ; both men 
of diligence in their respective employments, but rash. The 
bishop endured their want of moderation in this respect, out 
of regard to their activity ; and, as he had placed them in ofl5ce, 

* "This disgraceful contention happened in the year 1083. It seems to 
have arisen from the abbat (Thurstan) attempting to introduce a new chant, 
brought from Feschamp, instead of the Gregojian, to which the monks had 
been accustomed." — Hardy. 

+ Bracton says (lib. ii. c. 8, sec. 4), that the bishop of Durham had as 
full power in the county of Durham as the king in his own palace. The 
privileges of the see of Durham trace back to the time of St. Cuthbert. 


treated them with great kindness. "For our nature ever 
indulges itself, and favourably regards its own kind works." 
This Leobin caused Liwulph, a servant so dearly beloved by 
St. Cuthbert that the saint himself used to appear to him, 
even when waking, and prescribe his decisions ; him, I say, 
he caused to bo killed by Gilbert ; smitten with envy at his 
holding the higher place in the prelate's esteem for his know- 
ledge and equity in legal determinations. Walker, terrified 
with this intelligence, offered the furious family of the de- 
ceased the result of a legal inquiry,* affirming that Leobin 
would be the cause of his death and of that of his friends. 
When the matter came to a trial, this ferocious race of peo- 
ple were not to be soothed by reasons of any kind ; on the 
contrary, they threw the whole blame on the bishop, because 
they had seen both the murderers familiarly entertained in 
his court after the death of LiwuliDh. Hence arose clamour 
and indignation, and Gilbert, as he was of his own accord, 
going out of the church, where he had been sitting with the 
bishop, that he might, at his personal peril, save the life of 
his master, was impiously slain. The bishop, while making 
overtures of peace before the gates, next glutted the rage of 
the people with his blood ; the fomenter of the crime, too, 
Leobin, was half-burnt, as he would not quit the church till 
it was set on fire, and when he rushed out he was received 
on a thousand spears. This had been predicted by Edgitha, 
relict of king Edward ; for when she had formerly seen 
Walker, with his milk-white hair, rosy countenance, and ex- 
traordinary stature, conducted to Winchester to be conse- 
crated ; " We have here," said she, " a noble martyr :" being 
led to form such a presage by reflecting on the muti- 
nous disposition of that people. To him succeeded William, 
abbat of St. Carilef, who established monks at Durham. 

Moreover, the year before the king's death, there was a 
mortality both among men and cattle, and severe tempests, 
accompanied with such thunder and lightning, as no person 
before had ever seen or heard. And in the year he died, a 
contagious fever destroyed more than half the people; in- 
deed the attack of the disease killed many, and then, from 
the unseasonableness of the weather, a famine following, it 

* Walker offered to purge himself by oath from all participation in the 
murder. See Flor. Wig. a.t>. 1080. 

A.D. 1083.] OF KING WTLLIAm's CHILDREN. 305 

spread universally and cut off those whom the fever had 

In addition to his other virtues he, more especially in early 
youth, was observant of chastity ; insomuch that it was very 
commonly reported that he was impotent. Marrying, how- 
ever, at the recommendation of the nobility, he conducted 
himself, during many years, in such wise, as never to be sus- 
pected of any criminal intercourse. He had many children 
by Matilda, whose obedience to her husband and fruitfulness 
in cliildren excited in liis mind the tenderest regard for her, 
although there are not wanting persons who prate about his 
having renounced his former chastity ; and that, after he had 
acceded to the royal dignity, he was connected with the 
daughter of a certain priest, whom the queen caused to be 
removed, by being hamstrung by one of her servants ; on 
which account he was exiled, and Matilda was scourged to 
death with a bridle. But I esteem it folly to believe this of 
so great a king ; though I decidedly assert that a slight dis- 
agreement arose between them, in latter times, on account of 
their son Robert, whom his mother was said to supply with 
a military force out of her revenues. Nevertheless, he 
proved that his conjugal affection was not in the least dimi- 
nished by this circumstance, as he buried her with great 
magnificence, on her death, four years before his own ; and 
weeping most profusely for many days showed how keenly 
he felt her loss : moreover, from that time, if we give credit 
to report, he refrained from every gratification. The queen* 
was buried at Caen, in the monastery of the Holy Trinity. 
The same proof of regard was evident in the care he took 
of the funeral of queen Edgitha ; who, placed by his atteuT 
tion near her husband at Westminster, has a tomb riclily 
wrought with gold and silver. 

His sons were Robert, Richard, William, and Henry, 
The two last reigned after him successively in England : 
Robert, irritated that Normandy was refused him during his 
father's life-time, went indignantly to Italy, that by marry- 
ing the daughter of Boniface the marquis, he might procure 

• " Matilda died 2nd Nov. 1083. She bequeathed to this monastery her 
crown, sceptre, and ornaments of state. A copy ,of her will may be seen 
in the Essais Historiques, by the Abbe de la Rue, torn. ii. p. 437."-^ 


assistance in those parts, to oppose the king : but failing of 
this connexion, he excited Philip king of France against his 
father. Wherefore, disappointed of his paternal blessing 
and inheritance, at his death, he missed England, retaining 
with difficulty the duchy of Normandy : and pawning even 
this, at the expiration of nine years, to his brother William, 
he joined the expedition into Asia, with the other Christians. 
From thence, at the end of four years, he returned with 
credit for his miUtary exploits ; and without difficulty sat 
himself down in Normandy, because his brother William be- 
ing recently dead, king Henry, unsettled on account of his 
fresh-acquired power, deemed it enough to retain England 
under his command : but as I must speak of this in another 
place, I will here pursue the relation I had begun concerning 
the sons of William the Great. 

Richard affi3rded his noble father hopes of his future 
greatness ; a fine youth and of aspiring disposition, consider- 
ing his age : but an untimely death quickly withered the bud 
of this promising flower. They relate that while hunting 
deer in the New-forest, he contracted a disorder from a 
stream of infected air. This is the place which William his 
father, desolating the towns and destroying the churches for 
more than thirty miles, had appropriated for the nurture and 
refuge of wild beasts;* a dreadful spectacle, indeed, that 
where before had existed human intercourse and the worship 
of God, there deer, and goats, and other animals of that 
kind, should now range unrestrained, and these not subjected 
to the general service of mankind. Hence it is truly 
asserted that, in this very forest, William his son, and his 
grandson Richard, son of Robert, earl of Normandy, by the 
severe judgment of God, met their deaths, one by a wound 
in the breast by an arrow, the other by a wound in the neck, 
or as some say, from being suspended by the jaws on the 
branch of a tree, as his horse passed beneath it. 

His daughters were five; first, Cecilia, abbess of Caen, 
who still survives : the second, Constantia, married to Alan 

• Some MSS. omit from "a dreadful spectacle," to the end of the paragraph, 
and substitute thus, " Here he willingly passed his time, here he delighted to 
follow the chase, I will not say for days but even months together. Here, 
too, man} accidents befell the royal race, which the recent recollection of 
the inhabitants supplies to inquirers." 

A. D. 1087.1. DAUGHTERS OF WILLIAM I. 307 

Fergant, earl of Brittany, excited the inhabitants, by the 
severity of her justice, to administer a poisonous potion to 
her : the third, Adela, the wife of Stephen, earl of Blois, a 
lady celebrated for secular industry, lately took the veil at 
Marcigny. The names of the two others have escaped me. * 
One of these, as we have said, was betrothed to Harold, and 
died ere she was marriageable : the other was affianced, by 
messengers, to Alphonso, king of Gallicia, but obtained, 
from God, a virgin death. A hard substance, which proved 
the frequency of her prayers, was found upon her knees after 
her decease. 

Honouring the memory of his father, by every practicable 
method, in the latter part of his life, he caused his bones, 
formerly interred at Nicea, to be taken up by means of a 
person sent for that purpose, in order to convey them else- 
where; who, successfully returning, stopped in Apulia, on 
hearing of the death of WiUiam, and there buried this illus- 
trious man's remains. He treated liis mother, who, before 
the death of his father, had married one Herlewin de Conte- 
ville, a man of moderate wealth, with singular indulgence 
as long as she lived. William's brothers, by this match, 
were Robert, a man of heavy, sluggish disposition, whom he 
made earl of Moreton; and Odo, whom, while he was earl, 
he made bishop of Bayeux ; and Avhen king, created him earl 
of Kent. Being of quicker talents than the other, he was 
governor of all England, under the king, after the death of 
William Fitz-Osberne. He had wonderful skill in accumu- 
lating treasure; possessed extreme craft in dissembling: so 
that, though absent, yet, stuffing the scrips of the pilgrims 
with letters and money, he had nearly purchased the Roman 
papacy from the citizens. But when, through the rumour of 
his intended journey, soldiers eagerly flocked to him from all 
parts of the kingdom, the king, taking offence, threw him 
into confinement ; saying, that he did not seize the bishop of 
Bayeux, but the earl of Kent. His partisans being intimi- 
dated by threats, discovered such quantities of gold, that the 
heap of precious metal would surpass the belief of the present 
age ; and, at last, many sackfuls of wrought gold were also 
taken out of the rivers, which he had secretly buried in cer- 

* Agatha and Adeliza were their names, according to Ordericua 
Vitalis, (lib. iv. 512.) 



tain places. When released, at tlie death of his brother, he 
joined Robert's party, as he was averse to his nephew 

William : but then too matters turning out unfavourably, he 
was banished England, and went over to his nephew and his 
bishopric in Normandy. Afterwards, proceeding with him 
on his enterprize to Jerusalem, he died at Antioch while it 
was besieged by the Christians. 

King William kindly admitted foreigners to his friend- 
ship; bestowed honours on them without distinction, and 
was attentive to almsgiving; he gave many possessions in 
England to foreign churches, and scarcely did his own 
munificence, or that of his nobility, leave any monastery un- 
noticed, more especially in Normandy, so that their poverty 
was mitigated by the riches of England. Thus, in his time, 
the monastic flock increased on every side ; monasteries 
arose, ancient in their rule, but modern in building: but 
here I perceive the muttering of those who say, it would 
have been better that the old should have been preserved in 
their original state, than that new ones should have been 
erected from their plunder. 

He was of just stature, extraordinary corpulence, fierce 
countenance; his forehead bare of hair: of such great 
strength of arm, that it was often matter of surprise, that no 

ne was able to draw his bow, which himself could bend 
when his horse was on full gallop : he was majestic, whether 
sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly 
deformed his royal person: of excellent health, so that he 
was never confined with any dangerous disorder, except at 
the last: so given to the pleasures of the chase, that, as I 
have before said, ejecting the inhabitants, he let a space of 
many miles grow desolate, that, when at liberty from other 
avocations, he might there pursue his pleasures. He gave 
sumptuous and splendid entertainments, at the principal 
festivals; passing, during the years he could conveniently 
remain in England, Christmas at Gloucester; Easter at 
Winchester; Pentecost at Westminster. At these times a 
royal edict summoned thither all the principal persons of 
every order, that the ambassadors from foreign nations might 
admire the splendour of the assemblage, "and the costliness 
of the banquets. Nor was he at any time more affable or 
indulgent; in order that the visitants might proclaim uni- 


versally, that liis generosity kept pace with liis riches. This 
mode of banqueting was constantly observed by his first 
successor ; the second omitted it. 

His anxiety for money is the only thing for which he can 
deservedly be blamed.* This he sought all opportunities of 
scraping together, he cared not how ; he would say and do 
some tilings, and, indeed, almost any tiling, unbecoming such 
great majesty, where the hope of money allured him. I have 
here no excuse whatever to offer, unless it be, as one has 
said, that, " Of necessity, he must fear many, whom many 
fear." For, through dread of liis enemies, he used to drain 
the country of money, with which he might retard or repel 
their attacks; very often, as it happens in human affairs, 
where strength failed, purchasing the forbearance of his ene- 
mies with gold. This disgraceful calamity is still prevalent, 
and every day increases ; so that both towns and churches 
are subjected to contributions : nor is this done with firm- 
kept faith on the part of the imposers, but whoever offers 
more, carries the prize; all former agreements being disre- 

Residing in his latter days in Normandy, when enmity 
had arisen between him and the king of France, he, for a 
short period, was confined to the house: PliiHp, scoffing at 
this forbearance, is reported to have said, " The king of 
England is lying-in at Rouen, and keeps his bed, like a 
woman after her delivery;" jesting on his belly, which he 
had been reducing by medicine. Cruelly hurt at this sar- 
casm, he replied, " When I go to mass, after my confine- 
ment, I will make him an offering of a hundred thousand 
candles."! He swore this, " by the Resurrection and Glory 
of God :" for he was wont purposely to swear such oaths as, 
by the very form of his mouth, would strike terror into the 
minds of his hearers. 

* Some MSS. omit from " money," fo " I have," and substitute, This 
he sought all opportunities of collecting, provided he could allege that they 
were honourable, and not unbecoming the royal dignity. But he will 
readily be excused, because a new government cannot be administered 
without large revenues. I have, «&c. 

t The Romish ritual directs the woman to kneel, with a lighted taper in 
her hand, at the church door, where she is sprinkled with holy water, and 
afterwards conducted into the church. The practice seems connected with 
the festival of the Purification. Vide Durand, lib. vii. c. 7, 


Not long after, in the end of tlie month of August, when 
the corn was ripe on the ground, the clusters on the vines, 
and the orchards laden with fruit in full abundance, collect- 
ing an army, he entered France in a hostile manner, tramp- 
ling down, and laying every thing waste : nothing could 
assuage liis irritated mind, so determined was he to revenge 
this injurious taunt at the expense of multitudes. At last 
he set fire to the city of Mantes, where the church of St. 
Mary was burnt, together with a recluse who did not think 
it justifiable to quit her cell even under such an emergency ; 
and the whole property of the citizens was destroyed. Ex- 
hilarated by this success, while furiously commanding his 
people to add fuel to the conflagration, he approached too 
near the flames, and contracted a disorder from the violence 
of the fire and the intenseness of the autumnal heat. Some 
say, that his horse leaping over a dangerous ditch, ruptured 
his rider, where his belly projected over the front of the 
saddle. Injured by this accident, he sounded a retreat, and 
returning to Rouen, as the malady increased he took to his 
bed. His physicians, when consulted, affirmed, from an in- 
spection of his urine, that death was inevitable. On hearing 
this, he filled the house with his lamentations, because death 
had suddenly seized him, before he could effect that reforma- 
tion of life which he had long since meditated. Recovering 
his fortitude, however, he performed the duties of a Christian 
in confession and receiving the communion. Reluctantly, 
and by compulsion, he bestowed Normandy on Robert ; to 
William he gave England ; while Henry received his mater- 
nal possessions. He ordered all his prisoners to be released 
and pardoned : his treasures to be brought forth, and dis- 
tributed to the churches : he gave also a certain sum of 
money to repair the church which had been burnt. Thus 
rightly ordering all things, he departed on the eighth of the 
ides of September, [Sept. 6,] in the fifty-ninth year of his 
age : the twenty-second of his reign : the fifty-second of his 
duchy : and in the year of our Lord 1087. This was the 
same year, in which Canute, king of Denmark, as we have 
before related, was killed ; and in which the Spanish Sara- 
cens raging against the Christians, were shortly compelled 
to retire to their own territories by Alphonso, king of Gal- 
licia ; unwillingly evacuating even the cities they had for- 
merly occupied. 

A.D. 1087] BERENGAR OF TOURS. 311 

The body, enbalmed after royal custom, was brought down 
the river Seine to Caen, and there consigned to the earth, a 
large assembly of the clergy attending, but few of the laity. 
Here might be seen the wretchedness of earthly vicissitude ; 
for that man who was formerly the glory of all Europe, and more 
powerful than any of his predecessors, could not find a place 
of everlasting rest, without contention. For a certain knight, 
to whose patrimony the place pertained, loudly exclaiming at 
the robbery, forbade his burial : saying, that the ground be- 
longed to himself by paternal right ; and that the king had 
no claim to rest in a place which he had forcibly invaded. 
Whereupon, at the desire of Henry, the only one of his sons 
who was present, a hundred pounds of silver* were paid to 
this brawler, and quieted his audacious claim : for at that 
time, Robert his elder born was in France, carrying on a 
war against his own country : William had sailed for Eng- 
land, ere the king had well breathed his last ; thinking it 
more advantageous to look to his future benefit, than to be 
present at the funeral of his father. Moreover, in the disper- 
sion of money, neither slow, nor sparing, he brought forth from 
its secret hoard, all that treasure which had been accumulated 
at Winchester, during a reign of so many years : to the 
monasteries he gave a piece of gold ; to each parish church 
five shillings in silver : to every county a hundred pounds 
to be divided to each poor man severally. He also very 
splendidly adorned the tomb of his father, with a large mass 
of gold and silver and the refulgence of precious stones. 

At this time lived Berengar, the heresiarch of Tours, who 
denied, that the bread and wine, when placed on the altar 
and consecrated by the priest, were, as the holy church 
affirms, the real and substantial body of the Lord. Already 
was the whole of Gaul infected with this his doctrine, dis- 
seminated by means of poor scholars, whom he allured by 
daily hire. On this account pope Leo, of holiest memory, 
alarmed for the catholic faith, calling a council against him 
at Vercelli, dispersed the darkness of this misty error, by the 
effulgence of evangelical testimony. But when, after his 
death, the poison of heresy again burst forth from the bosoms 
of some worthless people where it had long been nurtured, 
Hildebrand, in councils, when he was archdeacon, at Tours, 
• Sisrty shillings do^vn, and as much more afterwards. Orderic. Vital. 


and after, when pope, at Rome, compelled him, after being 
convicted, to the abjuration of his opinion ; which matters, 
any person desirous of seeing will find recorded in their pro- 
per place. Archbishop Lanfranc and Guimund, the most 
eloquent man of our times, first monk of St. Leofrid, in Nor- 
mandy, afterwards bishop of Aversa in Apulia, confuted 
him ; but principally and most forcibly the latter. And, 
indeed, though Berengar disgraced the earlier part of his life 
by defending certain heresies, yet he came so much to his 
senses in riper age, that without hesitation, he was by some 
esteemed a saint ; admired for innumerable good qualities, 
but especially for his humility and alms-giving : showing 
himself master of his large possessions, by dispersing, not 
their slave by hoarding and worshipping them. He was so 
guarded with respect to female beauty, that he would never 
suffer a woman to appear before him, lest he should seem to 
enjoy that beauty with his eye, which he did not desire in 
his heart. He was used neither to despise the poor nor flatter 
the rich : to live by nature's rule, " and having food and 
raiment," in the language of the apostle, " therewith to be 
content." Li consequence, Hildebert, bishop of Mans, a 
first-rate poet, highly commends liim ; whose words I have 
purposely inserted, that I may show this celebrated bishop's 
regard to his master ; and at the same time his opinion will 
serve for an example to posterity, how he thought a man 
ought to live : although, perhaps, from the strength of his 
affection, he may have exceeded the bounds of just commend- 

Fame, which the world allows his due. 

Shall Berengar, when dead, pursue : 

Whom, plac'd on faith's exalted height 

The fifth day ravish 'd with fell spite : 

Sad was that day, and fatal too, 

Where grief and loss united grew, 

Wherein the chiu-ch's hope and pride, 

The law, with its supporter, died. 

What sages taught, or poets sung 

Bow'd to his wit, and honey'd tongue. 

Then hoHer wisdom's path he trod, 

And fill'd his heart and lips with God. 

His soul, his voice, his action prov'd 

The great Creator's praise he lov'd. 

So good, so wise, his growing fame 

Shall soar above the greatest name ; 


Whose rank preserv'd his honours gain'd, 
Preferr'd the poor to rich : maintain'd 
The sternest justice. Wealth's wide power 
Ne'er gave to sloth, or waste, an hovir, 
Nor could repeated honours, high. 
Seduce him from humility ; 
Who ne'er on money set his mind, 
But griev'd he could no object find 
Where he might give : and help'd the poor 
Till poverty assail'd his door. 
His life by natm-e's laws to guide. 
His mind from vice, his lips from pride. 
Still was his care : to false, the true 
Prefer, and nothing senseless do : 
Evil to none, but good impart. 
And banish lucre, hand and heart. 
Whose dress was coarse, and temperance just 
Awaited appetite's keen gust : 
Was chastity's perpetual gixest, 
Nor let rank lust disturb his rest. 
When nature form'd him, " See," said she, 
" While others fade, one born for me." 
Ere justice sought her place of rest 
On high, he lock'd her in his breast. 
A saint from boyhood, whose great name 
Surpasses his exceeding fame, 
. Which, though the wide world it may fill, 
Shall never reach his merit still. 
Pious and grave, so humble yet, 
That envy ne'er could him beset ; 
For envy weeps, whom still before 
She hated, prone now to adore ; 
First for his life, but now his fate 
She moans, laments his frail estate. 
Man truly wise and truly blest ! 
Thy soul and body both at rest, 
May I, when dead, abide with you, 
And share the self-same portion too. 

You may perceive in these verses, that the bishop ex- 
ceeded the just measure of praise; but eloquence is apt to 
recommend itself in such wise; thus a brilliant style pro- 
ceeds in graceful strain ; thus 

" Bewitching eloquence sheds purple flowers." 
But though Berengar himself changed his sentiments, yet 
was he unable to convert all whom he had infected through- 
out the world; " so dreadful a thing it is to seduce others 
from what is right, either by example or by word; as, per- 


haps, in consequence, you must bear the sins of others after 
having atoned for your own." Fulbert, bishop of Chartres, 
whom Mary, the mother of our Lord, was seen to cure when 
sick, by the milk of her breasts, is said to have predicted 
this; for, when lying in the last extremity, he was visited 
by many persons, and the house was scarcely large enough 
to hold the company, he darted his eye through the throng, 
and endeavoured to drive away Berengar, with all the force 
he had remaining; protesting that an immense devil stood 
near him, and attempted to seduce many persons to follow 
him, by beckoning with his hand, and whispering some 
enticement. Moreover, Berengar himself, when about to 
expire on the day of the Epiphany, sadly sighing, at the 
recollection of the wretched people whom, when a very 
young man, in the heat of error, he had infected with his 
opinions, exclaimed, " To-day, in the day of his manifesta- 
tion, my Lord Jesus Christ will appear to me, either to 
glorify me, as I hope, for my repentance ; or to punish me, 
as I fear, for the heresy I have propagated on others." 

We indeed believe, that after ecclesiastical benediction, 
those mysteries are the very body and blood of the Saviour ; 
induced to such an opinion, by the authority of the ancient 
church, and by many miracles recently manifested. Such as 
that which St. Gregory exhibited at Rome; and such as 
Paschasius relates to have taken place in Germany ; that the 
priest Plegild visibly touched the form of a boy, upon the 
altar, and that after kissing him he partook of him, turned 
into the similitude of bread, after the custom of the church : 
which, they relate, Berengar used arrogantly to cavil at, and 
to say, that " it was the treacherous covenant of a scoun- 
drel, to destroy with his teeth, him whom he had kissed with 
his mouth." Such, too, is that concerning the Jewish boy, 
who by chance running playfully into a church, with a 
Christian of the same age, saw a child torn to pieces on the 
altar, and severally divided to the people ; which when, with 
childish innocence, he related as truth to his parents, they 
placed him in a furnace, where the fire was burning and the 
door closed : whence, after many hours, he was snatched by 
the Christians, without injury to his person, clothes, or hair; 
and being asked how he could escape the devouring flames, 
he replied, " That beautiful woman whom I saw sitting in 

A.D. 10870 THE TOMB OF WALWIN. 315 

the chair, whose son was divided among the people, always 
stood at my right hand in the furnace, keeping off the 
threatening flames and fiery volumes with her garments." 

At that time, in a province of Wales, called Ros, was 
found the sepulchre of Walwin, the noble nephew of Ai'thur ; 
he reigned, a most renowned knight, in that part of Britain 
which is still named Walwerth; but was driven from his 
kingdom by the brother and nephew of Hengist, (of whom I 
have spoken in my first book,) though not without first 
making them pay dearly for his expulsion. He deservedly 
shared, with his uncle, the praise of retarding, for many 
years, the calamity of his falling country. The sepulchre of 
Arthur is no where to be seen, whence ancient ballads fable 
that he is still to come. But the tomb of the other, as I 
have suggested, was found in the time of king Wilham, on 
the sea-coast, fourteen feet long: there, as some relate, he 
was wounded by his enemies, and suffered shipwreck ; others 
say, he was killed by his subjects at a public entertainment. 
The truth consequently is doubtful ; though neither of these 
men was inferior to the reputation they have acquired. 

This, too, was the period in which Germany, for fifty 
years, bewailed the pitiable, and almost fatal government of 
Henry, of whom I have spoken in the history of William. 
He was neither unlearned nor indolent ; but so singled out 
by fate for every person to attack, that whoever took up 
arms against him seemed, to himself, to be acting for the 
good of religion. He had two sons, Conrad and Henry : the 
first, not violating the rights of nature towards his father, 
having subjugated Italy, died at Arezzo, a city of Tuscany: 
the other, in his early age, attacking his parent when he was 
somewhat at rest from external molestation, compelled him 
to retire from the empire, and when he died shortly after, 
honoured him with an imperial funeral. He still survives, 
obstinately adhering to those very sentiments, on account of 
which he thought himself justified in persecuting his father; 
for he grants the investiture of churches by the staff and 
ring ; and looks upon the pope as not legally elected without 
his concurrence ; although Calixtus, who now presides over 
the papal see, has greatly restrained this man's inordinate 
ambition: but let the reader wait my farther relation of 
these matters in their proper order. 


Moreover, pope Hildebrand dying, as I have said, and 
Urban being elected by the cardinals, the emperor persisted 
in his intention of preferring Guibert, of proclaiming him 
pope, and of bringing him to Rome, by the expulsion of the 
other. The army, however, of the marchioness Matilda, a 
woman, who, forgetful of her sex, and comparable to the 
ancient Amazons, used to lead forth her hardy troops to 
battle, espoused the juster cause, as it seemed, by her assist- 
ance, in succeeding time. Urban obtaining the papal throne, 
held quiet possession of it for eleven years. After him 
Paschal was appointed by the Romans, who held Henry's 
concurrence in contempt. Guibert yet burdened the earth 
with liis existence, the only sower of sedition, who never, 
during liis whole life, laid aside his obstinacy, nor conformed 
to justice; saying, that the decision of the emperor ought 
to be observed; not that of the assassins, or parchment- 
mongers of Rome.* In consequence, both of them being 
excommunicated in several councils, they treated the sen- 
tence with ridicule. Notwithstanding these circumstances, 
there were many tilings praiseworthy in the emperor: he 
was eloquent, of great abilities, well read, actively charitable ; 
had many good quahties, both of mind and person : was ever 
prepared for war, insomuch that he was sixty-two times 
engaged in battle; was equitable in adjusting differences; 
and when matters were unsuccessful, he would prefer his 
griefs to heaven, and wait for redress from thence. Many of 
his enemies perished by untimely deaths. 

I have heard a person of the utmost veracity relate, that 
one of his adversaries, a weak and factious man, while 
reclining at a banquet, was, on a sudden, so completely sur- 
rounded by mice, as to be unable to escape. So great was 
the number of these little animals, that there could scarcely 
be imagined more in a whole province. It was in vain, that 
they were attacked with clubs and fragments of the benches 
which were at hand : and though they were for a long time 
assailed by all, yet they wreaked their deputed curse on no 

* . . . . lanistarum vel pellificum. It seems a sneer at the sanguinary 
disposition of the Roman people, and at the bulls of the pope. In a dis- 
pute on the credil)ility of evidence adduced, it is observed, that the oral 
testimony of three bishops was certainly to be preferred " to sheep-skins 
blackened with ink and loaded with a leaden seal." Edmer. Hist. Nov. p. 65. 


one else; pursuing liim only with tlieir teeth, and with a 
kind of dreadful squeaking. And although he was carried 
out to sea about a javelin's cast by the servants, yet he could 
not by these means escape their violence ; for immediately 
so great a multitude of mice took to the water, that you 
would have sworn the sea was strewed with chaff. But 
when they began to gnaw the planks of the ship, and the 
water, rushing through the chinks, threatened inevitable 
shipwreck, the servants turned the vessel to the shore. The 
animals, then also swimming close to the sliip, landed first. 
Thus the wretch, set on shore, and soon after entirely 
gnawed in pieces, satiated the dreadful hunger of the mice. 

I deem this the less wonderful, because it is well known, 
that in Asia, if a leopard bite any person, a party of mice 
approach directly, to discharge their urine on the wounded 
man ; and that a filthy deluge of their water attends his 
death ; but if, by the care of servants di'iving them off, the 
destruction can be avoided during nine days ; then medical 
assistance, if called in, may be of service. My informant 
had seen a person wounded after this manner, who, de- 
spairing of safety on shore, proceeded to sea, and lay at an- 
chor ; when immediately more than a thousand mice swam 
out, wonderful to relate, in the rinds of pomegranates, the 
insides of which they had eaten; but they were disowned 
through the loud shouting of the sailors. " For the Creator 
of all things has made nothing destitute of sagacity ; nor any 
pest without its remedy." 

During this emperor's reign flourished Marianus Scotus,* 
first a monk of Fulda, afterwards a recluse at Mentz, who, 
by renouncing the present Hfe, secured the happiness of that 
which is to come. During liis long continued leisure, he 
examined the writers on Chronology, and discovered the 
disagreement of the cycles of Dionysius the Little with 
the evangelical computation. Wherefore reckoning every 
year from the beginning of the world, he added twenty- 
two, which were wanting, to the above mentioned cycles ; 
but he had few, or no followers of his opinion. Wherefore 
I am often led to wonder, why such unhappiness should 

* Marianus was bom in Ireland a.d. 1028, and was compiler of a 
celebrated chronicle, which is the basis of Florence of Worcester. His 
imagined correction of Dionysius is founded in error. 


attach to tlie learned of our time, that in so great a number 
of scholars and students, pale with watching, scarcely one 
can obtain unqualified commendation for knowledge. So 
much does ancient custom please, and so little encourage- 
ment, though deserved, is given to new discoveries, however 
consistent with truth. All are anxious to- grovel in the old 
track, and everything modern is contemned; and therefore, 
as patronage alone can foster genius, when that is withheld, 
every exertion languishes. 

But as I have mentioned the monastery of Fulda, I will 
relate what a reverend man. Walker, prior of Malvern, 
whose words if any disbelieve he offends against holiness, 
told me had happened there. " Not more than fifteen years 
have elapsed," said he, " since a contagious disease attacked 
the abbat of that place, and afterwards destroyed many of 
the monks. The survivors, at first, began each to fear for 
himself, and to pray, and give alms more abundantly than 
usual. In process of time, however, for such is the nature 
of man, their fear gradually subsiding, they began to omit 
them ; the cellarer more especially : who publicly and ab- 
surdly exclaimed, that the stock of provision was not ade- 
quate to such a consumption ; that he had lately hoped for 
some reduction of expense from so many funerals, but that 
his hopes were at an end, if the dead consumed what the 
living could not. It happened on a certain night, when, 
from some urgent business, he had deferred going to rest 
for a long time, that having at length despatched every 
concern, he went towards the dormitory. And now you 
shall hear a strange circumstance: he saw in the chapter- 
house, the abbat, and all who had died that year, sitting 
in the order they had departed : when affrighted and en- 
deavouring to escape, he was detained by force. Being 
reproved and corrected, after the monastic manner, with a 
scourge, he heard the abbat speak precisely to the following 
effect : that it was foolish to look for advantage by another's 
death, when all were subject to one common fate ; that it 
was an impious thing, that a monk who had passed his 
whole life in the service of the church should be grudged 
the pittance of a single year after his death ; that he him- 
self should die very shortly, but that whatever others might 
do for him, should redound only to the advantage of those 


whom lie had defrauded ; that he might now go and correct, 
by his example, those whom he had corrupted by his ex- 
pressions." He departed, and demonstrated that he had 
seen nothing imaginary, as well by his recent stripes, as 
by his death, which shortly followed. 

In the meantime, while employed on other subjects, both 
matter and incHnation have occurred for the relation of 
what was determined in William's time, concerning the 
controversy still existing between the archbishops of Can- 
terbury and York. And that posterity may be fully in- 
formed of this business, I will subjoin the opinions of the 
ancient fathers. 

Pope Gregory to Augustine, first archbishop of Canterbury. 
" Let your jurisdiction not only extend over the bishops 
you shall have ordained, or such as have been ordained by 
the bishop of York, but also over all the priests of Britain, 
by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Boniface to Justus, archbishop of Canterbury. 
"Far be it from every Christian, that anything concern- 
ing the city of Canterbury be diminished or changed, in 
present or future times, which was appointed by our pre- 
decessor pope Gregory, however human circumstances may 
be changed: but more especially, by the authority of St. 
Peter the prince of apostles, we command and ordain, that 
the city of Canterbury shall ever hereafter be esteemed the 
metropolitan see of all Britain ; and we decree and appoint, 
immutably, that all the provinces of the kingdom of Eng- 
land shall be subject to the metropolitan church of the afore- 
said see. And if any one attempt to injure this church, 
which is more especially under the power and protection 
of the holy Roman church, or to lessen the jurisdiction con- 
ceded to it, may God expunge him from the book of Hfe ; and 
let him know, that he is bound by the sentence of a curse." 

Alexander to William, king of England. 
" The cause of Alric, formerly called bishop of Chiches- 
ter, we have entrusted to our brother bishop, Lanfranc, to 
be by him diligently reconsidered and determined. We 
have also commended to him the labour of deciding the 
dispute which has arisen between the archbishop of York, 


and the bishop of Dorchester, on matters belonging to their 
dioceses ; strictly ordering him to examine this cause most 
diligently and bring it to a just termination. Besides, we 
have so fully committed to him the authority of our per- 
sonal and pontifical power in considering and settling causes, 
that whatever he shall, according to justice, have determined, 
shall be regarded as firm and indissoluble hereafter, as though 
it had been adjudged in our presence." 

"In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ's incarnation 1072, 
of the pontificate of pope Alexander the eleventh, and of 
the reign of William, glorious king of England, and duke 
of Normandy, the sixth ; by the command of the said pope 
Alexander, and permission of the same king, in presence of 
himself, his bishops, and abbats, the question was agitated 
concerning the primacy which Lanfranc,* archbishop of 
Canterbury, claimed in right of his church, over that of 
York ; and concerning the ordination of certain bishops, of 
which it was not clearly evident, to whom they especially 
pertained ; and at length, after some time it was proved and 
shown by the distinct authority of various writings, that the 
church of York ought to be subject to that of Canterbury, 
and to be obedient to the appointments of its archbishop, as 
primate of all England, in all such matters as pertained to 
the Christian religion. But the homage of the bishop of 
Durham, that is of Lindisfarne, and of all the countries be- 
yond the limits of the bishop of Lichfield, and the great 
river Humber, to the farthest boundaries of Scotland, and 
whatever on this side of the aforesaid river justly pertains 
to the diocese of the church of York, the metropolitan of 
Canterbury allowed for ever to belong to the archbishop of 
York and his successors : in such sort, that if the archbishop 
of Canterbury chose to call a council, wherever he deemed 
fit, the archbishop of York was bound to be present at his 
command, with all his suffragan bishops, and be obedient to 
his canonical injunctions. And Lanfranc the archbishop 
proved from the ancient custom of his predecessors, that 
the archbishop of York was bound to make profession, even 
with an oath, to the archbishop of Canterbury ; but through 

* See the letteis which passed on this subject between Lanfranc and 
Thomas archbishop oi York in Lanfranci Opera, ed. J. A. Giles, 2 vols. 
8vo. forming vols. 21 and 22 of Patres Ecclesise Anglicanae. 


regard to the king, he dispensed with the oath from Thomas, 
archbishop of York; and received his written profession 
only: bat not forming a precedent for his successors who 
might choose to exact the oath, together with the profession, 
from Thomas's successors. If the archbishop of Canter- 
bury should die, the archbishop of York shall come to 
Canterbury ; and, with the other bishops of the church 
aforesaid, duly consecrate the person elect as his lawful 
primate. But if the archbishop of York shall die, his suc- 
cessor, accepting the gift of the archbishopric from the king, 
shall come to Canterbury, or where the archbishop of Can- 
terbury shall appoint, and shall from him receive canonical 
ordination. To this ordinance consented the king aforesaid, 
and the archbishops, Lanfranc of Canterbury, and Thomas 
of Xork ; and Hubert subdeacon of the holy Roman church, 
and legate of the aforesaid pope Alexander; and the other 
bishops and abbats present. This cause was first agitated at 
the festival of Easter in the city of Winchester, in the royal 
chapel, situated in the castle ; afterwards in the royal town 
called Windsor, where it received its termination, in the 
presence of the king, the bishops, and abbats of different 
orders, who were assembled at the king's court on the fes- 
tival of Pentecost. 

" The signature of William the king : the signature of Ma- 
tilda the queen. 

" I Hubert, subdeacon of the holy Roman church, and legate 
from pope Alexander, have signed. 

" I Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, have signed. 

" I Thomas, archbishop of York, have signed. ' 

" I William, bishop of London, have assented. 

" I Herman, bishop of Sherborne, have signed. 

" I Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, have signed. 

" I Walter, bishop of Hereford, have assented. 

" I Giso, bishop of Wells, have assented. 

"I Remigius, bishop of Dorchester, have signed. 

" I Walkelin, bishop of Winchester, have signed. 

" I Herefast, bishop of Helmham, have signed. 

" I Stigand, bishop of Chichester, have assented. 

**I Siward, bishop of Rochester, have assented. 

**I Osberne, bishop of Exeter, have assented. 

" I Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent, have assented. 


" I Gosfrith, bishop of Coutances and one of the nobles of 
England, have assented. 

" I Scotland, abbat of St. Augustine's monastery, have as- 

" I Thurstan, abbat of the monastery wliich is situated in 
the isle of Ely, have assented. 

" I Ailnoth, abbat of Glastonbury, have assented. 

" I Elfwin, abbat of the monastery of Ramsey, have as- 

" I Wulnoth, abbat of Chertsey, have assented. 

" I Ailwyn, abbat of Evesham, have assented. 

' I Frederic, abbat of St. Alban's, have assented. 

" 1 Goffrid, abbat of the monastery of St. Peter, near Lon- 
don, have assented. 

" I Baldwin, abbat of St. Edmund's monastery, have as- 

"I Turald, abbat of Burgh, have assented. 

" I Adelelm, abbat of Abingdon, have assented. 

" I Ruald, abbat of the New minster at Winchester, have 

"It becomes every Christian to be subject to Christian 
laws, and by no means to run counter to those things which 
have been wholesomely enacted by the holy fathers. For 
hence arise strifes, dissensions, envyings, contentions, and 
other things, which plunge the lovers of them into eternal 
punishment. And the more exalted the rank of any person 
is, so much the more exact should be his obedience to divine 
commands : wherefore I Thomas, now ordained metropolitan 
bishop of the church of York, hearing and knowing your 
authorities, make unlimited profession of canonical obedi- 
ence to you, Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, and your 
successors ; and I promise to observe whatever shall be 
canonically enjoined me, either by you or them. Of tliis 
matter I was doubtful, while I was yet about to be ordained 
by you : wherefore I promised obedience unconditionally to 
you, but conditionally to your successors." 

The archbishop of Canterbury, as I remember to have ob- 
served in my first book, originally had subject to him, these 
bishops : London, Winchester, Rochester, Sherborne, Wor- 
cester, Hereford, Lichfield, Selsey, Leicester, Helmham, 
Sidnacester, Danwich ; in the time of king Edward the 


Elder were added, Cornwall, Crediton, Wells in West Sax- 
ony, and Dorchester in Mercia, as I noticed in my second book. 

The archbishop of York had all the bishops on the farther 
side of the Humber subject to him, as Ripon, Hexham, Lin- 
disfame, Candida Casa, which is now called Whitherne ; and 
all the bishops of Scotland and the Orkneys ; as the archbi- 
shop of Canterbury had those of Ireland and Wales. The 
bishoprics of Ripon and Hexham have long since perished 
by hostile ravages ; Leicester, Sidnacester, and Dunwich, by 
means that I cannot account for ; and, in the time of king 
Edward the Simple, Cornwall and Crediton were united, 
and the bishopric translated to Exeter. In king William's 
time, at this council, it was determined that, according to the 
decrees of the canons, the bishops should quit the villages, 
and fix their abode in the cities of their dioceses ; Lichfield 
therefore migrated to Chester, which was anciently called 
the City of Legions ; Selsey to Chichester ; Helmham first to 
Thetford, and now, by bishop Herbert, to Norwich ; Sher- 
borne to Sahsbury ; Dorchester to Lincoln. For Lindisfarne 
had long before passed to Durham, and lately Wells to Bath. 

In this assembly Lanfranc, who was yet uninstructed in 
English matters, inquired of the elder bishops, what was the 
order of sitting in council, as originally appointed. They, 
alleging the difficulty of the question, deferred their answer 
till the next day ; when, carefully calling circumstances to 
mind, they asserted that they had seen the arrangement as 
follows : that the archbishop of Canterbury, presiding at the 
council, should have, on the right hand, the archbishop of 
York, and next him the bishop of Winchester ; and on his 
left, the bishop of London. But should it ever happen, 
through necessity, that the primate of Canterbury should be 
absent, or should he be dead, the archbishop of York, presid- 
ing at the council, should have the bishops of London on his 
right hand, and of Winchester on his left; and the rest 
should take their seats according to the time of their ordina- 

At that time, too, the claim of the archbishop of York on 
the see of Worcester and Dorchester was decided and set at 
rest. For he said that they ought to be subject to his juris- 
diction; which, after having pondered for some time in 
secret, when he proceeded to Rome with Lanfranc to receive 

y 2 


their palls from the pope, he brought publicly before the 
Roman court. Lanfranc, though for the most part unmoved 
by injury, could not help betraying, by his countenance, his 
emotion at such a wanton and unheard-of attack, though he 
for some time refrained from speaking. But pope Alexan- 
der, who felt much for Lanfranc's distress, for he had even 
condescendingly risen from his seat when he approached, 
professing that he paid him this mark of respect, not from 
honour to the archbishop but regard to his learning, removed 
from himself the unpleasant task of deciding, and referred the 
adjudication of it to an English council. In consequence, as 
I have related, the matter, after deep investigation, came to 
this termination in the present council ; that, as these bishops 
were on this side of the Humber, they should belong to 
Canterbury, but all beyond that river to York. 

Here the pious simplicity of St. Wulstan, bishop of Wor- 
cester, and his noble confidence in God, demand praise and 
approbation. For when called in question as well concern- 
ing this business, as on his slender attainments in learning, 
he had retired to consider more carefully what answer he 
should make, his mind undisturbed by tumult : " Believe 
me," said he, " we have not yet sung the service for the sixth 
hour : let us sing the service therefore." And, on his com- 
panions suggesting the necessity of first expediting the busi- 
ness they had met upon ; that there was ample time for sing- 
ing, and that the king and the nobility would laugh at them, 
if they heard of it : " Truly," said he, " let us first do our 
duty towards God, and afterwards settle the disputes of 
men." Having sung the service, he directly proceeded 
towards the council-chamber, without devising any subter- 
fuge, or any attempt to disguise the truth. To his depend- 
ents, who were desirous of withholding him, and who could 
not be persuaded but their cause was in danger, he said, 
" Know for certain, that I here visibly perceive those holy 
archbishops, Dunstan of Canterbury, and Oswald of York ; 
who, defending me this day with their prayers, will darken 
the understandings of my gainsayers." Then giving his 
benediction to a monk, a man of little eloquence, but some- 
what acquainted with the Norman language, on summing up 
his cause, he obtained that he, who was before thought unwor- 
thy of the management of his own diocese, should be humbly 

A. D. 1072.] PREFACE TO BOOK IV. 325 

entreated bj the archbisliop of York, to condescend to visit 
those parts of his province, which himself, through dread of 
enemies, or ignorance of the language, had refrained from 
approaching. But I will no longer torture the patience of 
my readers, who perhaps do not regard this matter with 
pleasure, as they are in expectation of the history of Wil- 
liam's successors ; though, if I am not too partial to myself, 
a variety of anecdote can be displeasing to no one, unless he 
be morose enough to rival the superciliousness of Cato. But 
whoever is so inclined, will find such other matters in the 
fourth and fifth book, for here the third shall terminate.* 



I AM aware, that many persons think it unwise in me, to 
have written the history of the kings of my own time ; 
alleging, that in such a work, truth is often made shipwreck 
of, while falsehood meets with support : because to relate the 
crimes of contemporaries, is attended with danger ; their good 
actions with applause. Whence it arises, say they, that, as 
all things have, now, a natural tendency to evil rather than 
to good, the historian passes over any disgraceful transaction, 
however obvious, through timidity ; and, for the sake of 
approbation, feigns good qualities, when he cannot find them. 
There are others, who, judging of us by their own indolence, 
deem us unequal to so great a task, and brand our under- 
taking with malignant censure. Wherefore, impelled by 
the reasoning of the one, or the contempt of the other, I had 
long since voluntarily retired to leisure and to silence : but^ 
after indulging in them for a time, the accustomed inclina- 
tion for study again strongly beset me ; as it was impossible 
for me to be unoccupied, and I knew not how to give my- 
self up to those forensic avocations, which are beneath the 
notice of a literary character. To this was to be added the 

• Two of the MSS., used by Mr. Hardy, place here the dedicatory 
epistle of the author to Robert Earl of Gloucester, which we have placed at 
the commencement of the work. 

326 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUET. [b it. pref, 

incitements of my friends, to whose suggestions, though only 
implied, I ought to pay regard : and they indeed gently 
urged me, already sufficiently disposed, to prosecute my un- 
dertaking. Animated, therefore, by the advice of those 
whom I love most aflfectionately, I advance to give them a 
lasting pledge of friendship from the stores of my research. 
Grateful also to those who are in fear for me, lest I should 
either excite hatred, or disguise the truth, I will, by the 
help of Christ, make such a return for their kindness, as 
neither to become odious, nor a falsifier. For I will describe, 
both what has been done well, or otherwise, in such wise, 
and so safely steer between Scylla and Charybdis, that my 
opinions shall not be concealed, though some matters may be 
omitted in my history. Moreover, to those who undervalue 
the labours of others, I make the same answer as St. Jerome 
formerly did to his critics ; " Let them read if they like : if 
not, let them cast it aside ; because I do not obtrude my 
work on the fastidious, but I dedicate it, if any think it 
worth their notice, to the studious ;" which even these men 
will readily pronounce to be consonant to equity, unless they 
are of the number of those, of whom it is said ; " Fools are 
easy to confute, but not so easy to restrain." I will relate, 
then, in this, the fourth book of my work, every thing which 
may be said of William, son of William the Great, in such 
manner that neither shall the truth suffer, nor shall the 
dignity of the prince be obscured. Some matters also will 
be inserted in these pages, which in his time were calami- 
tous in this country, or glorious elsewhere, as far as my 
knowledge extends. More especially, the pilgrimage of the 
Christians to Jerusalem, which it will be proper to annex in 

/'this place ; because an expedition, so famous in these times, 
is well worth hearing, and will also be an incitement to 

. valour. Not indeed that I have any confidence these transac- 
tions will be better treated by me than by others who have 
written on the subject, but that, what many write, many may 
read. Yet, lest so long a preface should disgust my reader, 
I will immediately enter on my work. 

A.n 10S7.] BIRTH OP WILLIAM H. 327 

[ CHAP. I. 

Of William the Second, [a.d. 1087—1100.] 

William then, the son of William, was born in Normandy 
many years before his father came to England ; and being 
educated with extreme care by his parents, as he had natu- 
rally an ambitious mind, he at length reached the summit of 
dignity. He would no doubt have been a prince incom- 
parable in our time, had not his father's greatness eclipsed 
him ; and had not the fates cut short his years too early for 
his maturer age to correct errors, contracted by the licen- 
tiousness of power, and the impetuosity of youth. When 
childhood was passed, he spent the period of youth in mili- 
tary occupations ; in riding, throwing the dart, contending 
with his elders in obedience, with those of his own age in 
action : and he esteemed it injurious to his reputation, if he 
was not the foremost to take arms in military commotions ; 
unless he was the first to challenge the adversary, or when 
challenged, to overcome him. To his father he was ever 
dutiful ; always exerting himself in his sight in battle, ever 
at his side in peace. His hopes gradually expanding, he 
already aspired after the succession, especially on the 
rejection of his elder brother, while the tender age of the 
younger gave him no uneasiness. Thus, adopted as his suct 
cesser by his father during his last illness, he set out to take 
possession of the kingdom ere the king had breathed his last : 
where being gladly received by the people, and obtaining the 
keys of the treasury, he by these means subjected all Eng- 
land to his will. Archbishop Lanfranc, the grand mover of 
every thing, had educated him, and made him a knight,* 
and now he favoured his pretensions to the throne ; by his 
authority and assistance William was crowned on the day of 
the saints Cosmas and Damian,f and passed the remainder of 
the winter quietly and with general favour. 

At the expiration of this period, in the beginning of spring, 
his first contention was with his uncle, Odo, bishop of 

♦ *' At this period the custom of receiving knighthood from the hands 
of bishops or abbats yet obtained. There is a law of Henry I., prohibiting 
abbats from making knights." — Hardy. 

t The 27th of September. 

328 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. iv. c. 1. 

Bayeux. For when Odo, on his release from confinement, 
as I have related, had firmly established his nephew, Robert, 
in the duchy of Normandy, he came to England, and received 
from the king the earldom of Kent. But when he saw every 
thing in the kingdom managed, not at his own pleasure, as 
formerly, for the administration of public affairs was now 
committed to William, bishop of Durham, he was moved 
with envy, and having revolted from the king, he tainted 
many others by insinuating, that the kingdom belonged to 
Robert, who was of gentler disposition, and whose youthful 
follies had been corrected by many adversities ; that William, 
delicately brought up, and overbearing from that ferocity of 
mind which was manifest in his countenance, would dare 
every thing, in defiance of right and equity : that it must 
soon come to pass, that they would lose the honours they 
had already obtained with so much difficulty : that nothing 
was gained by the father's death, if those whom he had cast 
into prison, were to be killed by the son. To this effect he 
used, at first, secretly to mutter, together with Roger Mont- 
gomery, Gosfrith, bishop of Coutances, with his nephew 
Robert earl of Northumberland, and others ; afterwards they 
were more open in their clamours, repeating and dissemi- 
nating them by letters and by emissaries. Moreover, even 
William, bishop of Durham, the confidential minister of the 
king, had joined in their treachery. This was matter of 
great concern to William, it is said ; because, together with 
the breach of friendship, he was disappointed of the resources 
of the distant provinces. Odo now carried off" booty of every 
kind to Rochester, plundering the king's revenues in Kent, 
and especially the lands of the archbishop ; breathing eternal 
hatred against him, because, he said, it was by his advice, 
that his brother had cast liim into chains. Nor was this 
assertion false : for when William the elder formerly com- 
plained to Lanfranc, that he was deserted by his brother : 
" Seize, and cast him into chains," said he. " What !" re- 
plied the king, " he is a clergyman ! " Then the archbishop 
with playful archness, as Persius says, " balancing the objec- 
tion with nice antithesis,"* rejoined, " you will not seize the 
bishop of Bayeux, but confine the earl of Kent." 

• Persius, Sat. i. 85. 


Bishop Gosfrith with his nephew, depopulating Bath, and 
Berkeley, and part of the county of Wilts, treasured up 
their spoils at Bristol. Roger Montgomery sending out his 
army with the Welsh from Shrewsbury, plundered Worces- 
tershire. They had now hostilely approached Worcester, 
when the king's soldiers who guarded it, relying on the bless- 
ing of bishop Wulstan, to whom the custody of the castle 
was committed, though few in number, dispersed this multi- 
tude ; and after wounding and killing many, took some of 
them prisoners. Moreover, Roger Bigod at Norwich, and 
Hugo (""e Grentmeisnil at Leicester, each with their party, 
were plundering in their respective neighbourhoods. la 
vain, however, did the whole power of revolt rage against a 
man, who was deficient neither in prudence nor in good for- 
tune. For seeing almost all the Normans leagued in one 
furious conspiracy, he sent alluring letters, summoning to 
him such brave and honest English as yet remained ; and 
complaining to them on the subject of his wrongs, he bound 
them to his party, by promising them wholesome laws, a 
diminution of tribute, and free leave to hunt.* With equal 
cunning he circumvented Roger INIontgomery, when riding 
with him, with dissembled perfidy ; for taking him aside, he 
loaded him with odium, saying, that he would willingly retire 
from the government, if it seemed meet to him and to the 
rest whom his father had left as his guardians ; that he could 
not understand, why they were so outrageous ; if they wanted 
money, they might have what they pleased ; . if an increase 
of their estates, they might have that also ; in short, they 
might have whatever they chose ; only let them be careful 
that the judgment of his father was not called in question : 
for, if they thought it ought to be disregarded in the instance 
of himself, it might be a bad example for them : for the 
same person made him king, who had made them earls. 
Excited by these words and promises, the earl, who, next to 
Odo, had been the chief leader of the faction, was the first 
to desert. Proceeding, therefore, immediately against the 
rebels, he laid siege to the castles of his uncle at Tunbridge 
and at Pevensey, and seizing him in the latter compelled 
him to swear, as he dictated, that he would depart England, 
and deliver up Rochester. To fulfil this promise he sent him 
* On their own lands, it should seem from Sax. Chron., p. 465. 

330 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. tv. c. 1. 

forward with a party he could rely on, intending to follow at 
his leisure. At that time almost all the young nobility of Eng- 
land and Normandy were at Rochester : three sons of earl 
Roger, Eustace the younger of Boulogne, and many others 
not deserving notice. The royal party, accompanying the 
bishop, were few and unarmed, for who could fear treachery 
where he was present ? and going round the walls, they 
called the townsmen to open the gates ; for so the bishop in 
person, and the absent king commanded. Observing from 
the wall, however, that the countenance of the bishop ill 
agreed with the language of the speakers, they suddenly 
sallied out, took horse in an instant, and carried off, together 
with the bishop, the whole party, captive. The report of 
this transaction quickly reached the king. Fierce from the 
injury, and smothering his indignation, he calls together his 
faithful English subjects, and orders them to summon all 
their countrymen to the siege, unless any wished to be 
branded with the name of "Nidering,"* which implies 
" abandoned." The English who thought nothing more dis- 
graceful than to be stigmatised by such an appellation, flocked 
jn troops to the king, and rendered his army invincible. 
Nor could the townsmen longer delay submission ; expe- 
riencing, that a party, however noble, or however numer- 
ous, could avail nothing against the king of England. Odo, 
now taken a second time, abjured England for ever : the 
bishop of Durham of his own accord retired beyond sea, the 
king allowing him to escape uninjured out of regard to his 
former friendship : the rest were all admitted to fealty. 
During the interval of this siege, some of the king's fleet de- 
stroyed a party which the earl of Normandy had sent to 
assist the traitors, partly by slaughter, and partly by ship- 
wreck ; the remainder, intent on escaping, endeavoured to 
make sail ; but being soon after disappointed by its falling 
calm, they became matter for laughter to our people, but 
their own destruction ; for, that they might not be taken 
alive, they leaped from their vessels into the sea. 

* Nidering is supposed by Somner to denote such as were infamous 
enough to rifle a dead body. Gavelk. 65. Lye renders it, nequam, exlex, 
— infamous, outlaw. MS. Nithing. Spelman derives it from nidus : but 
there is no authority fcr either interpretation ; and in such cases it is safer, 
to confess ignorance than to mislead the reader by fanciful etymologies. 

A. D. 1088.] TREATY WITH ROBERT. 331 

The next year, as the sense of injuries ever grows keener 
from reconsideration, the king began carefully to examine, 
how he might revenge his griefs, and repay his brother for 
this insult. In consequence, by his practices, he bribed the 
garrison, and obtained possession of the castle of St. Vallery, 
the adjoining port, and the town which is called Albemarle. 
The earl had not the courage to resist, but, by means of am- 
bassadors, acquainted his lord, the king of France, with the 
violence of his brother, and begged his assistance. The 
French king, inactive, and surfeited with daily gluttony, 
came hiccupping, through repletion, to the war : but, as he 
was making great professions, the money of the king of Eng- 
land met him by the way ; with which his resolution being 
borne down, he unbuckled his armour, and went back to his 
gormandizing. In this manner, Normandy, for a long time, 
groaned under intestine war, sometimes one party, sometimes 
the other being victorious : the nobility, men of fickle temper, 
and faithful to neither brother, exciting their mutual fury. 
A few, better advised, attentive to their own advantage, for 
they had possessions in both countries, were mediators of a 
peace ; the basis of which was, that the king should get pos- 
session of Maine for the earl ; and the earl should cede to 
the king those castles which he already held, and the monas- 
tery of Feschamp. The treaty was ratified and confirmed by 
the oath of the nobles on both sides. 

Not long after the king went abroad to execute these con- 
ditions. Each leader made great efforts to invade Maine ; 
but when they had completed their preparations, and were 
just ready to proceed, an obstacle arose, through the spirit of 
Henry, the younger brother, loudly remonstrating against 
their covetousness, which had shared their paternal posses- 
sions between themselves, and blushed not at having left him 
almost destitute. In consequence he took possession of Mount 
St. Michael, and harassed, with constant sallies, the besieg- 
ing forces of his brothers. During this siege, a noble speci- 
men of disposition was exhibited, both by the king and by 
the earl : of compassion in the one, and of magnanimity in 
the other. I shall subjoin these instances, for the informa- 
tion of my readers. 

The king, going out of his tent, and observing the enemy 
at a distance, proudly prancing, rushed unattended against a 

332 WILHAltt OF JIALMESBURY. [b. iv. & I. 

large party ; spurred on by the impetuosity of his courage, 
and at the same time confident that none would dare resist 
him. Presently his horse, which he had that day purchased 
for fifteen marks of silver, being killed under him, he was 
thrown down, and for a long time dragged by his foot ; the 
strength of his mail, however, prevented his being hurt. 
The soldier who had unhorsed him, was at this instant draw- 
ing his sword to strike him, when, terrified at the extremity 
of his danger, he cried out, " Hold, rascal, I am the king of 
England." The whole troop trembled at the well-known 
voice of the prostrate monarch, and immediately raised him 
respectfully from the ground, and brought him another horse. 
Leaping into the saddle without waiting assistance, and dart- 
ing a keen look on the by-standers : " Who unhorsed me ?** 
said he. While the rest were silent through fear, the bold 
perpetrator of the deed readily defended himself, saying, 
" 'Twas I, who took you, not for a king, but for a soldier." 
The king, soothed, and regaining the serenity of his counte- 
nance, exclaimed, "By the crucifix* at Lucca," for such 
was his oath, " henceforth thou shalt be mine, and, placed 
on my roll, shalt receive the recompence of this gallant ser- 
vice." Nobly done, magnanimous king ! what encomium 
shall I pass on this speech ! Equal to Alexander the Great 
in glory ; who, through admiration of his courage, preserved, 
unhurt, a Persian soldier, who had attempted to strike him 
from behind, but was frustrated in his design by the treachery 
of his sword. 

But now to relate the compassion of the earl. When the 
blockade had so far proceeded that the besieged were in want 
of water, Henry sent mesjengers to Eobert, to expostulate 
with him on the thirst he endured, and to represent, that it 
was impious to deprive him of water, the common right of 
mankind : let him try his courage another way if he chose ; 
and not employ the violence of the elements, but the valour 
of a soldier. On which, wrought upon by the natural ten- 
derness of his disposition, he ordered his party to be more 
remiss in their duty where they kept guard, that his thirsty 

* This crucifix was very celebrated ; it being pretended that it was the 
work of Nicodemus. " See further on this subject in the Rev. J. E. 
Tyler's interesting volume, entitled, * Oaths, their origin, nature, and his- 
tory.' London: 8vo, pp. 289 — 296."— Hardy. 


brother might not be deprived of water. This circumstance, 
when related to the king, who was always inclined to warmth 
of temper, made him say to the earl, " You well know how 
to carry on war indeed, who allow your enemies plenty of 
water : and pray, how shall we subdue them, if we indulge 
them in food and drink?" But he smiling, uttered this kind 
and truly laudable expression, " Oh, shame I should I suffer 
my brother to die with thirst ? and where shall we find 
another, if we lose him?" On this the king, deriding the 
mild temper of the man, put an end to the war without ac- 
complishing his design ; and as the commotions of the Scots 
and Welsh required his presence, he retired with both his 
brothers to his kingdom. 

Immediately he led an expedition, first against the Welsh, 
and then against the Scots, in which he performed nothing 
worthy of his greatness ; but lost many of his soldiers, and 
had his sumpter-horses intercepted. And, not only at that 
time, but frequently, in Wales, was fortune unfavourable to 
him ; which may seem strange to any one, when the chance 
of war was generally on his side in other places. But it 
appears to me that the unevenness of the country, and the 
badness of the weather, as it assisted their rebellion, was 
also an impediment to his valour. But king Henry, who 
now reigns, a man of excellent talents, discovered a mode of 
counteracting their designs: which was, by stationing in 
their country the Flemings, to be a barrier to them, and con- 
stantly keep them within bounds. At that time, by the 
industry of earl Robert, who had long since gained the good 
graces of the Scot, the basis of a peace was laid between 
Malcolm and William. But various grounds of difference 
still existing on both sides, and justice wavering through 
their mutual animosity, Malcolm came of his own accord to 
Gloucester, a hearty solicitor for peace, so that it were on 
equitable conditions. He obtained, however, nothing more 
than permission to return uninjured to his kingdom: for the 
king disdained to take a man by subtlety, whom he might 
have conquered by arms. But the next winter he was dis- 
patched by the party of Robert, earl of Northumberland, 
rather through stratagem than force. When his wife, Mar- 
garet, a woman distinguished for alms-giving and for chas- 
tity, heai"d of his death, disgusted with the continuance of 

334 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. Lb. iv. c. 1. 

life, she earnestly entreated of God to die. Thej were both 
remarkable for piety, but the queen more especially. For 
during her whole life, wherever she might be, she had 
twenty-four poor persons whom she supplied with meat and 
clothing. In Lent, waiting for the singing of the priests, 
she used to watch all night in the church, herself assisting at 
triple matins, of the Trinity, of the Cross, of St. Mary, and 
afterwards repeating the Psalter ; with tears bedewing her 
garments, and agitating her breast. Departing from the 
church, she used to feed the poor; first three, then nine, then 
twenty-four, at last three hundred : herself standing by with 
the king, and pouring water on their hands. Edgar his son, 
when expelled by his uncle, was restored by William ; as- 
suredly with a noble compassion, and worthy of so great a 
personage, who, forgetting the injuries of the father, replaced 
the son, when suppliant, on his throne. 

Greatness of soul was pre-eminent in the king, which, in 
process of time, he obscured by excessive severity; vices, 
indeed, in place of virtues, so insensibly crept into his bosom, 
that he could not distinguish them. The world doubted, for 
a long time, whither he would incline; what tendency his 
disposition would take. At first, as long as archbishop Lan- 
franc survived, he abstained from every crime; so that it 
might be hoped, he would be the very mirror of kings. 
After his death, for a time, he showed himself so variable, 
that the balance hung even betwixt vices and virtues. At 
last, however, in his latter years, the desire after good grew 
cold, and the crop of evil increased to ripeness : his liberality 
became prodigality; his magnanimity pride; his austerity 
cruelty. I may be allowed, with permission of the royal 
majesty, not to conceal the truth; for he feared God but 
little, man not at all. If any one shall say this is undiscern- 
ing, he will not be wrong ; because wise men should observe 
this rule, " God ought to be feared at all times ; man, ac- 
cording to circumstances." He was, when abroad, and in 
public assemblies, of supercilious look, darting his threaten- 
ing eye on the by-stander; and with assumed severity and 
ferocious voice, assailing such as conversed with him. From 
apprehension of poverty, and of the treachery of others, as 
may be conjectured, he was too much given to lucre, and to 
cruelty. At home and at table, with his intimate com- 


panions, he gave loose to levity and to mirth. He was a 
most facetious railer at any thing he had himself done amiss, 
in order that he might thus do away obloquy, and make it 
matter of jest. But I shall dilate somewhat on that libe- 
rality, in which he deceived himself; and afterwards on his 
other propensities, that I may manifest what great vices 
sprang up in him under the semblance of virtues. 

For, in fact, there are two kinds of givers: the one is 
denominated prodigal, the other liberal. The prodigal are 
such as lavish their money on those things, of which they 
will leave either a transient, or perhaps no memory in this 
world ; neither will they gain mercy by them from God. 
The liberal, are those who redeem the captive from the 
plunderer, assist the poor, or discharge the debts of their 
friends. We must give, therefore, but with discrimination 
and moderation; for many persons have exhausted their 
patrimony by giving inconsiderately. " For what can be 
more silly, than to take pains to be no longer able to do that 
which you do with pleasure ?" * Some, therefore, when they 
have nothing to give turn to rapine, and get more hatred 
from those from whom they take, than good will from those 
to whom they give. We lament that thus it happened to 
this king; for, when in the very beginning of his reign, 
through fear of tumults, he had assembled soldiers, and 
denied them nothing, promising still greater remuneration 
hereafter; the consequence was, that as he had soon ex- 
hausted his father's treasures, and had then but moderate 
revenues, his substance failed, though the spirit of giving 
remained, which, by habit, had almost become nature. He 
was a man who knew not how to take off from the price of 
any thing, or to judge of the value of goods ; but the trader 
might sell him his commodity at whatever rate, or the soldier 
demand any pay he pleased. He was anxious that the cost 
of his clothes should be extravagant, and angry if they were 
purchased at a low price. One morning, indeed, while put- 
ting on his new boots, he asked his chamberlain what they 
cost ; and when he replied, " Three shillings," indignantly 
and in a rage he cried out, " You son of a whore, how long 
has the king worn boots of so paltry a price ? go, and bring 

♦ Cicero de Officiis, ii. 15, Much of the argument is borrowed from the 
same source. 

336 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. iv. c. 1. 

me a pair worth a mark of silver." He went, and bringing 
him a much cheaper pair, told him, falsely, that they cost as 
much as he had ordered : " Aye," said the king, " these are 
suitable to royal majesty." Thus his chamberlain used to 
charge him what he pleased for his clothes; acquiring by 
these means many things for his own advantage. 

The fame of his generosity, therefore, pervaded all the 
West, and reached even to the East. Military men came to 
him out of every province on this side of the mountains, whom 
he rewarded most profusely. In consequence, when he had 
no longer aught to bestow, poor and exhausted, he turned 
his thoughts to rapine. The rapacity of his disposition was 
seconded by Ralph, the inciter of his covetousness ; a clergy- 
man of the lowest origin, but raised to eminence by his wit 
and subtilty. If at any time a royal edict issued, that Eng- 
land should pay a certain tribute, it was doubled by this 
plunderer of the rich, this exterminator of the poor, this con- 
fiscator of other men's inheritance. He was an invincible 
pleader, as unrestrained in his words as in his actions ; and 
equally furious against the meek or the turbulent. Where- 
fore some people used to laugh, * and say, that he was the 
only man Avho knew how to employ his talents in this way, 
and cared for no one's hatred, so that he could please his 
master. At this person's suggestion, the sacred honours of 
the church, as the pastors died, were exposed to sale: for 
whenever the death of any bishop or abbat was announced, 
directly one of the king's clerks was admitted, who made an 
inventory of every thing, and carried all future rents into 
the royal exchequer. In the meantime some person was 
sought out fit to supply the place of the deceased ; not from 
proof of morals, but of money ; and, at last, if I may so say, 
the empty honour was conferred, and even that purchased, 
at a great price. These things appeared the more disgrace- 
ful, because, in his father's time, after the decease of a bishop 
or abbat, all rents were reserved entire, to be given up to the 
succeeding pastor ; and persons truly meritorious, on account 
of their religion, were elected. But in the lapse of a very 
few years, every thing was changed. There was no man 
rich except the money-changer; no clerk, unless he was a 
lawyer; no priest, unless (to use a word which is hardly 
• Some read, " The king iised to laugh." &ic. 


Latin * ) he was a farmer. Men of the meanest condition, or 
guiltj of whatever crime, were listened to, if they could sug- 
gest an J thing likely to be advantageous to the king : the 
halter was loosened from the robber's neck, if he could pro- 
mise any emolument to the sovereign. All military discipline 
being relaxed, the courtiers preyed upon the property of the 
country people, and consumed their substance, taking the 
very meat from the mouths of these wretched creatures, f 
Then was there flowing hair and extravagant dress; and 
then was invented the fashion of shoes J with curved points ; 
then the model for young men was to rival women in deli- 
cacy of person, to mince their gait, to walk with loose gesture, 
and half naked. Enervated and effeminate, they unwillingly 
remained what nature had made them; the assailers of 
others' chastity, prodigal of their own. Troops of pathics, 
and droves of harlots, followed the court ; so that it was said, 
with j ustice, by a wise man, that England would be fortunate 
if Henry could reign ; § led to such an opinion, because he 
abhorred obscenity from his youth. 

Here, were it necessary, I could add, that archbishop 
Anselm attempted to correct these abuses ; but failing of the 
co-operation of his suffragans, he voluntarily quitted the 
kingdom, yielding to the depravity of the times. Anselm, 
than whom none ever was more tenacious of right ; none in 
the present time so thoroughly learned ; none so completely 

* This is unintelligible to the English reader. The author uses the 
word " firmarius," which certainly would not have conveyed the idea of a 
" farmer" to the mind of either Cicero or Horace. 

+ Those who followed the court, being under no kind of control, were 
in the habit of plundering and devastating the country wherever they went. 
When they were unable to consume whatever they found in their lodgings, 
they Avould sell it to the best bidder, or destroy it with fire ; or if it were 
liquor, after washing their horses' legs with a part, they let the remainder 
run. " As to their cruelty towards their hosts, or their unseemly conduct 
towards their Avives and daughters, it is shameful even to remember." — 
Edmer, Hist. Nov. p. 94. 

X These shoes, which gave occasion for various ordinances for their regu- 
lation or aljolition, during several successive centuries, are said to have 
owed their invention to Fulk, earl of Anjou, in order to hide his ill-formed 
feet. Orderic. Vitalis, p. 682 : who also observes, that the first improver, 
by adding the long curved termination, was a fellow (quidam nebulo) in 
the court of William Rufus, named Robert. 

§ Others read, " The palace of the king was not the abode of majesty, 
but the stews of pathics." 


338 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. Cb. xv. c 1. 

spiritual ; the father of his country, the mirror of the world : 
he, when just about to set sail, after waiting in port for a 
wind, was rifled, as though he had been a public robber ; all 
his bags and packages being brought out and ransacked. Of 
this man's injuries I could speak farther, had the sun wit- 
nessed any thing more unjust than this single transaction, or 
were it not necessary to omit a relation, which has been 
anticipated by the eloquence of the very reverend Edmer.* 

Hence may be perceived how fierce a flame of evil burst 
forth from what the king conceived to be liberality. In 
repressing which as he did not manifest so much diligence 
as negligence, he incurred a degree of infamy, not only 
great, but scarcely to be wiped out. I think undeservedly, 
however ; because he never could have exposed himself to 
such disgrace, had he only recollected the dignity of his 
station. I pass over, therefore, these matters slightly, and 
hasten in my composition, because I blush to relate the 
crimes of so great a king ; rather giving my attention to 
refute and extenuate them. 

The Jews in his reign gave proofs of their insolence 
towards God. At one time, at Rouen, they endeavoured to 
prevail, by means of presents, on some converted Jews, to 
return to Judaism ; f at another, at London, entering into 
controversy with our bishops ; because the king, in jest, as I 
suppose, had said, that if they mastered the Christians in 

* Edmer, besides constant mention of Anselm in his Historia Novorum, 
wrote his life also, in a separate form. 

f A Jewish youth imagined that St. Stephen had appeared to him, and 
commanded him to be baptized : this he obeyed. His father immediately 
flew to the king, earnestly entreating an order for his son to be restored to 
the faith of his ancestors. The king not discovering any advantage as hkely 
to accrue to himself, remained silent : on this the Jew offers him sixty 
marks, on condition that he would restore his son to Judaism. William 
then orders the youth to be brought before him ; relates his father's com- 
plaint, and commands him to renounce his baptism. The lad, astonished, 
replies, " Your majesty is joking surely." " I joke with thee," exclaims 
the king, " thou son of ordure ! begone, and obey my commands instantly, 
or by the cross at Lucca I will have your eyes torn out." The young man 
remaining inflexible, he drove him from his presence. The father was 
then ordered before the king, who desired him to pay down the money he 
had promised ; but, on the Jew's remonstrating that he had not reconverted 
his son, and the king's declaring that his labour was not to go unrewarded, 
it was agreed that he should receive half the sum. Edmer, Hist. Novor. 
p. 47. 


open argument, he would become one of their sect. The 
question therefore was agitated with much apprehension on 
the part of the bishops and clergy, fearful, through pious 
anxiety, for the Christian faith. From this contest, however, 
the Jews reaped nothing but confusion : though they used 
repeatedly to boast that they were vanquished, not by 
argument, but by power. 

In later times, that is, about the ninth year of his reign, 
Robert, earl of Normandy, at the admonition of pope Urban, 
as Avill be related hereafter, took the resolution of going to 
Jerusalem, and pawned Normandy to his brother, for the 
sum of ten thousand marks. In consequence, an edict for 
an intolerable tax was circulated throughout England. On 
this the bishops and abbats, in great numbers, went to court, 
to complain of the injury ; observing tliat they could not 
raise so great an impost, unless they drove away their 
wretched husbandmen altogether. To this the courtiers, 
with angry countenance, as usual, replied, " Have you not 
shrines adorned with gold and silver, full of dead men's 
bones ? " deigning the petitioners no other answer. In 
consequence, perceiving the drift of the reply, they took 
off the gold from the shrines of their saints ; robbed their 
crucifixes ; melted their chalices ; not for the service of the 
poor, but of the king's exchequer. For almost every thing, 
which the holy parsimony of their ancestors had saved, was 
consumed by the rapacity of these freebooters. 

Just so, too, were their proceedings against their vassals ; 
first taking their money, then their land : neither the poor 
man's poverty, nor the rich man's abundance, protecting him. 
He so restricted the right of hunting, which he had formerly 
allowed, that it became a capital offence to take a stag. This 
extreme severity, which was tempered by no affabihty, was 
the cause of many conspiracies, among the nobility, against 
his safety : one of whom, Robert de Mowbray earl of 
Northumberland, in consequence of very high words between 
him and the king, retired to his province, with the intention 
of making powerful efforts against his lord ; but William 
pursuing him, he was taken, and doomed to perpetual 
captivity. Another, William de Hou, being accused of 
treachery towards the king, challenged his accuser to single 
combat ; but being unable to justify himself in the duel, he 


340 WILLIAM OP MALMESBURT. [b. iv. c. 1, 

was deprived of his sight, and of his manhood. The same 
accusation involved many innocent and honourable men ; 
among whom was William de Aldrey, a man of handsome 
person, who had stood godfather* with the king. Being 
sentenced to be hanged, he made his confession to Osmund 
bishop of Salisbury, and was scourged at every church of 
the town. Parting his garments to the poor, he went naked 
to the gallows, often making the blood gush from his delicate 
flesh by falling on his knees upon the stones. He satisfied 
the minds of the bishop, and of the people who followed 
him to the place of punishment, by exclaiming, " God help 
my soul, and deliver it from evil, as I am free from the 
charge, of which I am accused : the sentence, indeed, passed 
upon me will not be revoked, but I wish all men to be 
certified of my innocence." The bishop then, commending 
his soul to heaven, and sprinkling him with holy water, 
departed. At his execution, he manifested an admirable 
degree of courage ; neither uttering a groan before, nor 
even a sigh, at the moment of his death. 

But still there are some proofs of noble magnanimity in 
the king, the knowledge of which, I will not deny posterity. 
As he was once engaged in hunting in a certain forest, a 
foreign messenger acquainted him that the city of Mans, 
which he had lately added to his dominions on the departure 
of his brother, was besieged. Unprepared as he was, he 
turned his horse instantly, and shaped his journey to the 
sea. When his nobles reminded him, that it would be 
necessary to call out his troops, and put them in array ; " I 
shall see," said he, " who will follow me : do you think I 
shall not have people enough ? If I know the temper of 
the young men of my kingdom, they will even brave 
shipwreck to come to me." In this manner he arrived, 
almost unattended, at the sea-coast. The sky at that time 
was overcast, the wind contrary, and a tempest swept the 
surface of the deep. When he determined to embark directly, 
the mariners besought him, to wait till the storm should 
subside, and the wind be favourable. " Why," said William, 
" I have never heard of a king perishing by shipwreck : no, 
weigh anchor immediately, and you shall see the elements 
conspire to obey me." When the report of his having 
• " Compater " sometimes means a friend or companion. 

A.D. 109(5.] William's magnanimitt. 341 

crossed the sea reached the besiegers, they hastily retreated. 
One Helias, the author of the commotion, was taken ; to 
whom, when brought before him, the king said jocularly, 
" I have you, master." But he, whose haughty spirit, even 
in such threatening danger, knew not how to be prudent, or 
to speak submissively, replied, "You have taken me by 
chance ; if I could escape, I know what I would do." At 
this William, almost beside himself with rage, and seizing 
Helias, exclaimed, " You scoundrel ! and what would you 
do ? Begone, depart, fly : I give you leave to do whatever 
you can ; and by the crucifix at Lucca, if you should 
conquer me, I will ask no return for this favour." Nor did 
he falsify his word, but immediately suffered him to escape ; 
rather admiring than following the fugitive. Who could 
believe this of an unlettered man ? And perhaps there may 
be some person, who, from reading Lucan, may falsely 
suppose, that William borrowed these examples from Julius 
Caesar ; * but he had neither inclination, nor leisure to 
attend to learning ; it was rather the innate warmth of his 
temper, and his conscious valour which prompted him to 
such expressions. And indeed, if our religion would allow 
it, as the soul of Euphorbus was formerly said to have 
passed into Pythagoras of Samos, so might it equally be 
asserted, that the soul of Julius Cassar had migrated into 
king William. 

He began and completed one very noble edifice, the pa- 
lace f in London ; sparing no expense to manifest the great- 
ness of his liberality. His disposition therefore the reader 
will be able to discover from the circumstances we have 

Should any one be desirous, however, to know the make 
of his person, he is to understand, that he was well set ; his 
complexion florid, his hair yellow ; of open countenance ; 
different-coloured eyes, varying with certain glittering specks ; 
of astonishing strength, though not very tall, and his belly 

• Pharsalia, lib. ii. 515— v. 580. 

+ " It has been inferred from this passage, that Malmesbury states the 
tower of London was built by William Rufus. There appears, however, 
little doubt that the principal building, now called the White Tower, was 
commenced by the Conqueror, and finished by Rufus, under the superin- 
tendence of Gundulph, bishop of Rochester." — Haedy. 

342 WILLIAM OF MALltfESBURY. [b. iv. c. 1. 

rather projecting ; of no eloquence, but remarkable for a 
hesitation of speech, especially when angry. Many sudden 
and sorrowful accidents happened in his time, which I shall 
arrange singly, according to the years of his reign ; chiefly 
vouching for their truth on the credit of the Chronicles. 

In the second year of his reign, on the third before the 
ides of August, a great earthquake terrified all England with 
a horrid spectacle ; for all the buildings were lifted up, and 
then again settled as before. A scarcity of every kind of 
produce followed ; the com ripened so slowly, that the har- 
vest was scarcely housed before the feast of St. Andrew. 

In his fourth year was a tempest of lightning, and a whirl- 
wind : finally, on the ides of October, at Winchcombe, a 
stroke of lightning beat against the side of the tower with 
such force, that, shattering the wall where it joined to the 
roof, it opened a place wide enough to admit a man ; enter- 
ing there, it struck a very large beam, and scattered frag- 
ments of it over the whole church ; moreover it cast down 
the head of the crucifix, with the right leg, and the image of 
St. Mary. A stench so noisome followed, as to be insuffer- 
able to human nostrils. At length, the monks, with aus- 
picious boldness, entering, defeated the contrivances of the 
devil, by the sprinkling of holy water. But what could this 
mean ? such a thing was unknown to every previous age. 
A tempest of contending winds, from the south-east, on the 
sixteenth before the kalends of November, destroyed more 
than six hundred houses in London. Churches were heaped 
on houses, and walls on partitions. The tempest proceeding 
yet farther, carried off altogether the roof of the church of 
St. Mary le Bow, and killed two men. Rafters and beams 
were whirled through the air, an object of surprise to such 
as contemplated them from a distance ; of alarm, to those 
who stood nigh, lest they should be crushed by them. For 
four rafters, six and twenty feet long, were driven with such 
violence into the ground, that scarcely four feet of them were 
visible. It was curious to see how they had perforated the 
solidity of the public street, maintaining there the same posi- 
tion which they had occupied in the roof from the hand of 
the workman, until, on account of their inconvenience to 
passengers, they were cut off level with the ground, as they 
could not be otherwise removed. 

A.D. 1092—1100.] ADVERSE EVENTS. 343 

In Ms fifth year, a similar thunder-storm at Salisbury en- 
tirely destroyed the roof of the church-tower, and much 
injured the wall, only five days after Osmund, the bishop of 
famed memory, had consecrated it. 

In his sixth year there was such a deluge from rain, and 
such incessant showers as none had ever remembered. 
Afterwards, on the approach of winter, the rivers were so 
frozen, that they bore horsemen and waggons ; and soon 
after, when the frost broke, the bridges were destroyed by 
the drifting of the ice. 

In his seventh year, on account of the heavy tribute which 
the king, while in Normandy, had levied, agriculture failed ; 
of which failure the immediate consequence was a famine. 
This also gaining ground a mortality ensued, so general, that 
the dying wanted attendance, and the dead, burial. At that 
time, too, the Welsh, fiercely raging against the Normans, 
and depopulating the county of Chester and part of Shrop- 
shire, obtained Anglesey by force of arms. 

In his tenth year, on the kalends of October, a comet 
appeared for fifteen days, turning its larger train to the east, 
and the smaller to the south-east. Other stars also appeared, 
darting, as it were, at each other. This was the year in, 
which Anselm, that light of England, voluntarily escaping 
from the darkness of error, went to Rome. 

In his eleventh year, Magnus, king of Norway, with Ha- 
rold, son of Harold, formerly king of England, subdued the 
Orkney, Mevanian, and other circumjacent isles ; and was 
now obstinately bent against England from Anglesey. But 
Hugh, earl of Chester, and Hugh, earl of Shrewsbury, op- 
posed him ; and ere he could gain the continent, forced him 
to retire. Here fell Hugh of Shrewsbury, being struck from 
a distance with a fatal arrow. 

In his twelfth year an excessive tide flowed up the Thames, 
and overwhelmed many villages, with their inhabitants. 

In his thirteenth year, which was the last of his life, there 
were many adverse events ; but the most dreadful circum- 
stance was that the devil visibly appeared to men in woods 
and secret places, and spoke to them as they passed by. 
Moreover in the county of Berks, at the village of Finch- 
hampstead, a fountain so plentifully flowed with blood for 
fifteen whole days, that it discoloured a neighbouring pooL 


The king heard of it and laughed ; neither did he care for 
his own dreams, nor for what others saw concerning him. 

They relate many visions and predictions of his death, 
three of which, sanctioned by the testimony of credible au- 
thors, I shall communicate to my readers. Edmer, the his- 
torian of our times, noted for his veracity, says that Anselm, 
the noble exile, with whom all religion was also banished, 
came to Marcigny that he might communicate his sufferings 
to Hugo, abbat of Clugny. There, when the conversation 
turned upon king William, the abbat aforesaid observed, 
" Last night that king was brought before God ; and by a 
deliberate judgment, incurred the sorrowful sentence of 
damnation." How he came to know this he neither explained 
at the time, nor did any of his hearers ask : nevertheless, out 
of respect to his piety, not a doubt of the truth of his words 
remained on the minds of any present. Hugh led such a 
life, and had such a character, that all regarded his discourse 
and venerated his advice, as though an oracle from heaven had 
spoken. And soon after, the king being slain as we shall 
relate, there came a messenger to entreat the archbishop to 
resume his see. 

The day before the king died, he dreamed that he was let 
blood by a surgeon ; and that the stream,/ reaching to hea- 
ven, clouded the light, and intercepted the day. Calling on 
St. Mary for protection, he suddenly awoke, commanded a 
light to be brought, and forbade his attendants to leave him. 
They then watched with him several hours until daylight. 
Shortly after, just as the day began to dawn, a certain fo- 
reign monk told Robert Fitz Hamon, one of the principal 
nobility, that he had that night dreamed a strange and fear- 
ful dream about the king : " That he had come into a certain 
church, with menacing and insolent gesture, as was his cus- 
tom, looking contemptuously on the standers by ; then 
violently seizing the crucifix, he gnawed the arms, and al- 
most tore away the legs : that the image endured this for a 
long time, but at length struck the king with its foot in such 
a manner that he fell backwards : from his mouth, as he lay 
prostrate, issued so copious a flame that the volumes of 
smoke touched the very stars." Robert, thinking that this 
dream ought not to be neglected, as he was intimate with 
him, immediately related it to the king. William, repeatedly 

A.D. 1100.] DEATH OF WILLIAM H. 345 

laughing, exclaimed, " He is a monk, and dreams for money 
like a monk : give him a hundred shillings." Neverthe- 
less, being greatly moved, he hesitated a long while whether 
he should go out to hunt, as he had designed : his friends 
persuading liim not to suffer the truth of the dreams to be 
tried at his personal risk. In consequence, he abstained 
from the chase before dinner, dispelling the uneasiness of 
his unregulated mind by serious business. They relate, that, 
having plentifully regaled that day, he soothed his cares with 
a more than usual quantity of wine. After dinner he went 
into the forest, attended by few persons ; of whom the most 
intimate with him was Walter, surnamed Tirel, who had 
been induced to come from France by the liberality of the 
king. This man alone had remained with him, while the 
others, employed in the chase, were dispersed as chance 
directed. The sun was now declining, when the king, draw- 
ing his bow and letting fly an arrow, slightly wounded a 
stag which passed before him ; and, keenly gazing, followed 
it, still running, a long time with his eyes, holding up his 
hand to keep off the power of the sun's rays. At this instant 
Walter, conceiving a noble exploit, which was while the 
king's attention was otherwise occupied to transfix another 
stag which by chance came near him, unknowingly, and 
without power to prevent it. Oh, gracious God ! pierced his 
breast with a fatal arrow.* On receiving the wound, the 
king uttered not a word ; but breaking off the shaft of the 
weapon where it projected from his body, fell upon the 
wound, by which he accelerated his death. Walter imme- 
diately ran up, but as he found him senseless and speechless, 
he leaped swiftly upon liis horse, and escaped by spurring 
him to his utmost speed. Indeed there was none to pursue 
him : some connived at his flight ; others pitied him ; and all 

• " The tradition of William having met his death by the hand of Sir 
Walter Tirel, whilst hunting in the New Forest, is generally received ; but 
Suger, a contemporary historian, and, as it seems, a friend of Tirel, in his 
Life of Louis le Gros, king of France, alluding to the death of Rufus, ob- 
serves, ' Imponebatur a quibusdam cuidam nobili Gualtero Tirello quod 
eum sagitta perfoderat : quern, cum nee timeret nee speraret, jurejurando 
saepius audivimus quasi sacrosanctum asserere, quod ea die nee in earn par- 
tem silvee, in qua rex venebatur, venerit, nee eum in silva omnino viderit.* 
See also Edmer, Hist, Nov. p. 54, and Ord. Vit. Hist. Eccles. lib. x. 
p. 783."— Hardy. 

846 WILLIAM OF MALMESBimr. [b.iv.c.1. 

were intent on other matters. Some began to fortify their 
dwellings ; others to plunder ; and the rest to look out for a 
new king. A few countrymen conveyed the body, placed on 
a cart, to the cathedral at Winchester ; the blood dripping 
from it all the way. Here it was committed to the ground 
within the tower, attended by many of the nobility, though 
lamented by few. Next year,* the tower fell ; though I for- 
bear to mention the different opinions on this subject, lest I 
should seem to assent too readily to unsupported trifles, more 
especially as the building might have fallen, through imper- 
fect construction, even though he had never been buried 
there. He died in the year of our Lord's incarnation 1100, 
of his reign the thirteenth, on the fourth before the nones of 
August, aged above forty years. He formed mighty plans, 
which he would have brought to effect, could he have spun 
out the tissue of fate, or broken through, and disengaged 
himself from, the violence of fortune. Such was the energy 
of his mind, that he was bold enough to promise himself any 
kingdom whatever. Indeed the day before his death, being 
asked where he would keep his Christmas, he answered, in 
Poitou ; because the earl of Poitou, wishing anxiously to 
go to Jerusalem, was said to be about to pawn his territory 
to him. Thus, not content with his paternal possessions, 
and allured by expectation of greater glory, he grasped at 
honours not pertaining to him. He was a man much to be 
pitied by the clergy, for throwing away a soul which they 
could not save ; to be beloved by stipendiary soldiers, for 
the multitude of his gifts ; but not to be lamented by the peo- 
ple, because he suffered their substance to be plundered. I 
remember no council being held in his time, wherein the health 
of the church might be strengthened through the correction of 
abuses. He hesitated a long time ere he bestowed ecclesias- 
tical honours, either for the sake of emolument, or of weigh- 
ing desert. So that on the day he died, he held in his own 
hands three bishoprics, and twelve vacant abbeys. Besides, 
seeking occasion from the schism between Urban in Rome 
and Guibert at Ravenna, he forbade the payment of the tri- 

. • It fell A..D. 1107. An. Winton. 

f By this probably ig to be understood the payment of Peter-pence. 
Anselm had offended the king, by acknowledging Urban without consult- 
ing him. 


butef to tlie holy see : though he was more inclined to favour 
Guibert ; because the ground and instigation of the discord be- 
tween himself and Anselm was, that tliis man, go dear to God, 
liad pronounced Urban to be pope, the other an apostate. 

Li his time began the Cistertian order, which is now both 
believed and asserted to be the surest road to heaven.* To 
speak of this does not seem irrelevant to the work I have 
undertaken, since it redounds to the glory of England to 
have produced the distinguished man who was the author and 
promoter of that rule. To us he belonged, and in our schools 
passed the earlier part of his life. Wherefore, if we are not 
envious, we shall embrace his good quahties the more kindly 
in proportion as we knew them more intimately. And, 
moreover, I am anxious to extol his praise, "because it is 
a mark of an ingenuous mind to approve that virtue in 
others, of which in yourself you regret the absence." He 
was named Harding, and born in England of no very illus- 
trious parents. From his early years, he was a monk at 
Sherborne; but when secular desires had captivated his 
youth, he grew disgusted with the monastic garb, and went 
first to Scotland, and afterwards to France. Here, after 
some years' exercise in the liberal arts, he became awakened 
to the love of God. For, when manlier years had put away 
childish things, he went to Rome with a clerk who partook 
of his studies ; neither the length and difficulty of the jour- 
ney, nor the scantiness of their means of subsistence by the 
way, preventing them, both as they went and returned, from 
singing daily the whole psalter. Indeed the mind of this 
celebrated man was already meditating the design which 
soon after, by the grace of God, he attempted to put in exe- 
cution. For returning into Burgundy, he was shorn at Mo- 
lesmes, a new and magnificent monastery. Here he readily 
admitted the first elements of the order, as he had formerly 
seen them ; but when additional matters were proposed for 
liis observance, such as he had neither read in the rule nor 
seen elsewhere, he began, modestly and as became a monk, 
to ask the reason of them, saying : " By reason the supreme 
Creator has made all things ; by reason he governs all things ; 
by reason the fabric of the world revolves ; by reason even 
the planets move ; by reason the elements are directed ; and 
• Juvenal, Sat. i. 37. 

348 WILLIAM OF MALMESBUKY. ^b. iv. c.l. 

by reason, and by due regulation, our nature ouglit to con- 
duct itself. But since, through sloth, she too often departs 
from reason, many laws were, long ago, enacted for her use ; 
and, latterly, a divine rule has been promulgated by St. Bene- 
dict, to bring back the deviations of nature to reason. In 
this, though some things are contained the design of which I 
cannot fathom, yet I deem it necessary to yield to authority. 
And though reason and the authority of the holy writers 
may seem at variance, yet still they are one and the same. 
For since God hath created and restored nothing without 
reason, how can I believe that the holy fathers, no doubt 
strict followers of God, could command anything but what 
was reasonable, as if we ought to give credit to their bare 
authority. See then that you bring reason, or at least autho- 
rity, for what you devise ; although no great credit should 
be given to what is merely supported by human reason, be- 
cause it may be combated with arguments equally forcible. 
Therefore from that rule, which, equally supported by reason 
and authority, appears as if dictated by the spirit of all just 
persons, produce precedents, which if you fail to do, in vain 
shall you profess his rule, whose regulations you disdain to 
comply with." 

Sentiments of this kind, spreading as usual from one to 
another, justly moved the hearts of such as feared God, 
" lest haply they should or had run in vain." The subject, 
then, being canvassed in frequent chapters, ended by bring- 
ing over the abbat himself to the opinion that all superfluous 
matters should be passed by, and merely the essence of the 
rule be scrutinized. Two of the fraternity, therefore, of 
equal faith and learning, were elected, who, by vicarious ex- 
amination, were to discover the intention of the founder's 
rule ; and when they had discovered it, to propound it to the 
rest. The abbat diligently endeavoured to induce the whole 
convent to give their concurrence, but "as it is difficult to 
eradicate from men's minds, what has early taken root, since 
they reluctantly relinquish the first notions they have im- 
bibed," almost the whole of them refused to accept the new 
regulations, because they were attached to the old. Eighteen 
only, among whom was Harding, otherwise called Stephen, 
persevering in their holy determination, together with their 
abbat, left the monastery, declaring that the purity of the 


institution could not be preserved in a place where riches 
and gluttony warred against even the heart that was well in- 
clined. They came therefore to Citeaux ; a situation for- 
merly covered with woods, but now so conspicuous from the 
abundant piety of its monks, that it is not undeservedly 
esteemed conscious of the Divinity himself. Here, by the 
countenance of the archbishop of Vienne, who is now pope, 
they entered on a labour worthy to be remembered and vene- 
rated to the end of time. 

Certainly many of their regulations seem severe, and more 
particularly these: they wear nothing made with furs or 
linen, nor even that finely spun linen garment, which we 
call Staminium ;* neither breeches, unless when sent on a 
journey, which at their return they wash and restore. They 
have two tunics with cowls, but no additional garment in win- 
ter, though, if they think fit, in summer they may lighten their 
garb. They sleep clad and girded, and never after matins 
return to their beds : but they so order the time of matins 
that it shall be light ere the lauds f begin ; so intent are they 
on their rule, that they think no jot or tittle of it should be 
disregarded. Directly after these hymns they sing the 
prime, after which they go out to work for stated hours. 
They complete whatever labour or service they have to per- 
form by day without any other light. No one is ever absent 
from the daily services, or from complines, except the sick. 
The cellarer and hospitaller, after complines, wait upon the 
guests, yet observing the strictest silence. The abbat allows 
himself no indulgence beyond the others, — every where pre- 
sent, — every where attending to his flock ; except that he 
does not eat with the rest, because his table is with the 
strangers and the poor. Nevertheless, be he where he may, 
he is equally sparing of food and of speech ; for never more 
than two dishes are served either to him or to his company ; lard 
and meat never but to the sick. From the Ides of Septem- 
ber till Easter, tlirough regard for whatever festival, they do 
not take more than one meal a day, except on Sunday. They 
never the leave the cloister but for the purpose of labour, 
nor do they ever speak, either there or elsewhere, save only 
to the abbat or prior. They pay unwearied attention to the 

• A kind of woollen shirt. 

+ The concluding psalms of the matin service. 

350 WILLIAM OP MALMESBUEY. Lb. it. c. 1. 

canonical* services, making no addition to them except the 
vigil for the defunct. They use in their divine service the 
Ambrosian chants f and hymns, as far as they were able to 
learn them at Milan. While they bestow care on the stran- 
ger and the sick, they inflict intolerable mortifications on 
their own bodies, for the health of their souls. 

The abbat, at first, both encountered these privations with 
much alacrity himself, and compelled the rest to do the same. 
In process of time, however, the man repented; J he had 
been delicately brought up, and could not well bear such 
continued scantiness of diet. The monks, whom he had left 
at Molesmes, getting scent of this disposition, either by mes- 
sages or letters, for it is uncertain which, drew him back to 
the monastery, by his obedience to the pope, for such was 
their pretext : compelling him to a measure to which he was 
already extremely well-disposed. For, as if wearied out 
by the pertinacity of their entreaties, he left the narrow 
confines of poverty, and resought his former magnificence. 
All followed him from Citeaux, who had gone thither with 
him, except eight. These, few in number but great in virtue, 
appointed Alberic, one of their party, abbat, and Stephen 
prior. The former not surviving more than eight years was, 
at the will of heaven, happily called away. Then, doubt- 
less by God's appointment, Stephen though absent was 
elected abbat ; the original contriver of the whole scheme ; 
the especial and celebrated ornament of our times. Sixteen 
abbeys which he has already completed, and seven which he 
has begun, are sufficient testimonies of his abundant merit. 
Thus, by the resounding trumpet of God, he directs the 
people around him, both by word and deed, to heaven ; act- 
ing fully up to his own precepts ; afiable in speech, pleasant 
in look, and with a mind always rejoicing in the Lord. 

* The Horse, or canonical services, were matins, primes, tierce, sexts, 
nones, vespers, and complines. 

f The Ambrosian ritual prevailed pretty generally till the time of 
Charlemagne, who adopted the Gregorian. Dnrandus (lib. v. c. 1) has a 
ciirious account of an experiment, on the result of which Avas founded 
the general reception of the latter, and the confining the former chiefly to 
Milan, the church of St. Ambrose. 

J The learned Mabillon appears much displeased with Malmesbury, for 
the motives here assigned for abbat Robert's quitting Citeaux. Vide Ann. 


Hence, openly, that noble joy of countenance; hence, 
secretly, that compunction, coming from above ; because, 
despising this state of a sojourner, he constantly desires to 
be in a place of rest. For these causes he is beloved by all ; 
" For God graciously imparts to the minds of other men a 
love for that man whom he loves." Wherefore the inhabit- 
ant of that country esteems himself happy if, through his 
hands, he can transmit his wealth to God. He receives 
much, indeed, but expending little on his own wants, or 
those of his flock, he distributes the rest to the poor, or em- 
ploys it immediately on the building of monasteries ; for the 
purse of Stephen is the public treasury of the indigent. A proof 
of his abstinence is that you see nothing there, as in other 
monasteries, flaming with gold, blazing with jewels, or glit- 
tering with silver. For as a Gentile says, " Of what use is 
gold to a saint ?" We think it not enough ia our holy vases, 
unless the ponderous metal be eclipsed hy precious stones ; 
by the flame of the topaz, the violet of the amethyst, and 
the green shade of the emerald : unless the sacerdotal robes 
wanton with gold ; and unless the walls glisten with various 
coloured paintings, and throw the reflexion of the sun's rays 
upon the ceiling. These men, however, placing those things 
which mortals foolishly esteem the first, only in a secondary 
point of view, give all their diligence to improve their morals, 
and love pure minds, more than ghttering vestments ; knowing 
that the best remuneration for doing well, is to enjoy a clear 
conscience. Moreover, if at any time the laudable kindness 
of the abbat either desires, or feigns a desire, to modify 
aught from the strict letter of the rule, they are ready to 
oppose such indulgence, saying, that they have no long time 
to live, nor shall they continue to exist so long as they have 
already done ; that they hope to remain stedfast in their pur 
pose to the end, and to be an example to their successors, 
who will transgress if they should give way. And, indeed, 
through human weakness, the perpetual law of which is that 
nothing attained, even by the greatest labour, can long re- 
main unchanged, it will be so. But to comprise, briefly, all 
things which are or can be said of them, — the Cistertian 
monks at the present day are a model for all monks, a mirror 
for the diligent, a spur to the indolent. 

At this time three sees in England were transferred from 

352 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. iv. c. 1. 

their ancient situations ; Wells to Bath, by John ; Chester to 
Coventry, by Robert ; Thetford to Norwich, by Herbert ; all 
through greater ambition, than ought to have influenced men 
of such eminence. Finally, to speak of the last first : Herbert, 
from his skill in adulation, surnamed Losinga,* was first abbat 
of Ramsey, and then purchased the bishopric of Thetford, 
while his father, Robert, surnamed as liimself, was intruded 
on the abbey of Winchester. This man, then, was the great 
source of simony in England; having craftily procured by 
means of his wealth, both an abbey and a bishopric. For 
he hood-winked the king's solicitude for the church by his 
money, and whispered great promises to secure the favour 
of the nobility: whence a poet of those times admirably 

" A monster in the church from Losing rose, 
Base Simon's sect, the canons to oppose. 
Peter, thou'rt slow; see Simon soars on high; 
If present, soon thou'd'st hm-I him from the sky.f 
Oh grief, the church is let to sordid hire, 
The son a bishop, abbat is the sire. 
All may be hoped from gold's prevailing sway. 
Which governs all things; gives and takes away; 
Makes bishops, abbats, basely in a day." 

Future repentance, however, atoned for the errors of his 
youth: he went to Rome, when he was of a more serious 
age, and there resigning the staff and ring which he had 
acquired by simony, had them restored through the indulg- 
ence of that most merciful see; for the Romans regard it 
both as more holy and more fitting, that the dues from each 
church should rather come into their own purse, than be 
subservient to the use of any king whatever. Herbert thus 
returning home, removed the episcopal see, which had for- 
merly been at Helmham, and was then at Thetford, to a 
town, celebrated for its trade and populousness, called Nor- 
wich. Here he settled a congregation of monks, famous for 
their numbers and their morals ; purchasing everything for 
them out of his private fortune. For, having an eye to the 
probable complaints of his successors, he gave none of the 

* From the French "losenge," adulation. 

+ Alluding to the legend of St. Peter and Simon Magnus ; who having 
undertaken by means of enchantment, to fly, was, by the adjuration of St. 
Peter, dashed to the earth and killed. Vide Fabricius, Codex Apocryphus. 


episcopal lands to the monastery, lest they should deprive 
the servants of God of their subsistence, if they found any 
thing given to them which pertained to their see. At Thet- 
ford, too, he settled Clugniac monks, because the members 
of that order, dispersed throughout the world, are rich in 
worldly possessions, and of distinguished piety towards God. 
Thus, by the great and extensive merit of his virtues, he 
shrouded the multitude of his former failings ; and by his 
abundant eloquence and learning, as well as by his know- 
ledge in secular affairs, he became worthy even of the Ro- 
man pontificate. Herbert thus changed, as Lucan observes 
of Curio, became the changer and mover of all things ; and, 
as in the times of this king, he had been a pleader in behalf 
of simony, so was he, afterwards, its most strenuous opposer ; 
nor did he suffer that to be done by others, which he la- 
mented he had ever himself done through the presumption 
of juvenile ardour: ever having in his mouth, as they relate, 
the saying of St. Jerome, " We have erred when young ; let 
us amend now we are old." Finally, who can sufficiently 
extol his conduct, who, though not a very rich bishop, yet 
built so noble a monastery ; in which nothing appears defec- 
tive, either in the beauty of the lofty edifice, the elegance of 
its ornaments, or in the piety and universal charity of its 
monks. These things soothed him with joyful hope while 
he lived, and when dead, if repentance be not in vain, con- 
ducted him to heaven.* 

John was bishop of Wells ; a native of Touraine, and an 
approved physician, by practice, rather than education. On 
the death of the abbat of Bath, he easily obtained the abbey 
from the king, both because all things at court were exposed 
to sale, and his covetousness seemed palliated by some de- 
gree of reason, that so famed a city might be still more 
celebrated, by becoming the see of a bishop. He at first 
began to exercise his severity against the monks, because 
they were dull, and in his estimation, barbarians; taking 
away all the lands ministering to their subsistence, and 
furnishing them with but scanty provision by his lay de- 
pendants. In process of time, however, when new monks 

* His letters, long supposed to be lost, were found by the editor of this 
work in a MS. belonging to the Burgundian library at Brussels, and have 
been smce published by R. Anstruther, 8vo. Bruxellis, 1 845. 


354 WILLIAM OP MALMESBUEY.' [n. iv. c. 1. 

had been admitted, he conducted himself with more mild- 
ness; and gave a small portion of land to the prior, by 
which he might, in some measure, support himself and his 
inmates. And although he had begun austerely, yet many 
things were there by him both nobly begun and completed, 
in decorations and in books ; and more especially, in a selec- 
tion of monks, equally notable for their learning and kind 
offices. But still he could not, even at his death, be softened 
far enough totally to exonerate the lands from bondage; 
leaving, in this respect, an example not to be followed by 
his successors. 

There was in the diocese of Chester, a monastery, called 
Coventry, which, as I have before related, the most noble 
earl Leofric, with his lady Godiva, had built; so splendid 
for its gold and silver, that the very walls of the church 
seemed too scanty to receive the treasures, to the great 
astonishment of the beholders. This, Robert bishop of the 
diocese eagerly seized on, in a manner by no means epis- 
copal ; stealing from the very treasures of the church where- 
with he might fill the hand of the king, beguile the vigilance 
of the pope, and gratify the covetousness of the Romans. 
Continuing there many years, he gave no proof of worth 
whatever: for, so far from rescuing the nodding roofs from 
ruin, he wasted the sacred treasures, and became guilty of 
peculation ; and a bishop might have been convicted of il- 
legal exactions, had an accuser been at hand. He fed the 
monks on miserable fare, made no attempts to excite in them 
a love for their profession, and suffered them to reach only 
a very common degree of learning; lest he should make 
them delicate by sumptuous living, or strictness of rule 
and depth of learning should spirit them up to oppose 
him. Contented therefore with rustic fare, and humble 
literary attainments, they deemed it enough, if they could 
only live in peace. Moreover, at his death, paying little 
attention to the dictates of the canons, by which it is 
enacted, that bishops ought to be buried in their cathe- 
drals, he commanded himself to be interred, not at Chester, 
but at Coventry ; leaving to his successors by such a de- 
cision, the task, not of claiming Avhat was not due to them, 
but as it were, of vindicating their proper right. 

Here, while speaking of the times of WilUam, I should be 

L.D. 1100.] JOSCELTN. 355 

induced to relate the translation of the most excellent Augus- 
tine, the apostle of the English and of liis companions, had 
not the talents of the learned Joscelyn, anticipated me :* of 
Joscelyn, who being a monk of St. Bertin, formerly came 
to England with Herman bishop of Salisbury, skilled equally 
in literature and music. For a considerable time he visited 
the cathedrals and abbeys, and left proofs of uncommon 
learning in many places ; he was second to none after Bede 
in the celebration of the English saints ; next to Osbernef 
too, he bore away the palm in music. Moreover he wrote 
innumerable lives of modern saints, and restored, in an ele- 
gant manner, such of those of the ancients as had been lost 
through the confusion of the times, or had been carelessly 
edited. He also so exquisitely wrought the process of this 
translation, that he may be said to have realized it to the 
present race, and given a view of it to posterity. Happy 
that tongue, which ministered to so many saints ! happy that 
voice, which poured forth such melody ! more especially as 
in his life, his probity equalled his learning. But, as I have 
hitherto recorded disgraceful transactions of certain bishops, 
I will introduce others of different lives and dispositions, 
who were in being at the same time ; that our age may not 
be said to have grown so negligent as not to produce one 
single saint. Such as are desirous, may find this promise 
completed in a subsequent book, after the narrative of king 
Henry's transactions. 

CHAP. 11. 

The Expedition to Jerusalem, [a.d. 1095 — 1105.] 

I SHALL now describe the expedition to Jerusalem, relating 
in my own words what was seen and endured by others. 
Besides too, as opportunity offers, I shall select from ancient 
writers, accounts of the situation and riches of Constanti- 
nople, Antioch, and Jerusalem ; in order that he who is un- 

* Joscelyn's " Life and Translation of St. Augustine" is printed in the 
" Acta Sanctor. Antwerp. 26 Maii." See the Preface to Bede, p. xxxix. 

+ Another famous writer of Lives of Saints, several of which exLst still 
in MS. 

A a2 

356 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b-iv. c. 2, 

acquainted with these matters, and meets with this work, 
may have something to communicate to others. But for 
such a relation there needs a more fervent spirit, m order 
to complete effectually, what I begin with such pleasure. 
Invoking, therefore, the Divinity, as is usual, I begin as 

In the year of the incarnation 1095, pope Urban the 
second, who then filled the papal throne, passing the Alps, 
came into France. The ostensible cause of his journey, was, 
that, being driven from home by the violence of Guibert, he 
might prevail on the churches on this side of the mountains to 
acknowledge him. His more secret intention was not so well 
known ; this was, by Boamund's advice, to excite almost the 
whole of Europe to undertake an expedition into Asia ; that 
in such a general commotion of all countries, auxiliaries 
might easily be engaged, by whose means both Urban might 
obtain Rome ; and Boamund, Illyria and Macedonia. For 
Guiscard, his father, had conquered those countries from 
Alexius, and also all the territory extending from Durazzo 
to Thessalonica ; wherefore Boamund claimed them as his 
due, since he obtained not the inheritance of Apulia, which 
his father had given to his younger son, Roger. Still 
nevertheless, whatever might be the cause of Urban's journey, 
it turned out of great and singular advantage to the Christian 
world. A council, therefore, was assembled at Clermont,* 
which is the'rooTt noted city of Auvergne. The numbePof 
bishops and abbats was three hundred and ten. Here at 
first, during several days, a long discussion was carried on 
concerning the catholic faith, and the establishing peace 
among contending parties.f For, in addition to those crimes 
in which every one indulged, all, on this side of the Alps, 
had arrived at such a calamitous state, as to take each other 
captive on little or no pretence ; nor were they suffered to 

* " The council of Clermont, in Auvergne, continued from 1 8th to 28th 
of Nov. A.D. 1095 ; wherein the decrees of the councils held by pope 
Urban at Melfe, Benevento, Troie, and Plaisance, were confirmed, and 
many new canons made. Malmesbury's is perhaps the best account now 
known of that celebrated council. See the acts of the council of Cler- 
mont ; Cone. torn. xii. p. 829, &c." — Hardy. 

t The practice of private wars ; for an account of which, see Robertson's 
flist. of Charles V. vol. i. 


go free, unless ransomed at an enormous price. Again too, 
the snake of simony had so reared her slippery crest, and 
cherished, with poisonous warmth, her deadly eggs, that the 
whole world became infected with her mortal hissing, and 
tainted the honours of the church. At that time, I will not 
say bishops to their sees merely, but none aspired even to 
any ecclesiastical degree, except by the influence of money. 
Then too, many persons putting away their lawful wives, 
procured divorces, and invaded the marriage- couch of others. 
Wherefore, as in both these cases, there was a mixed multi- 
tude of offenders, the names of some powerful persons were 
singled out for punishment. Not to be tedious, I will sub- 
join the result of the whole council, abbreviating some parts, 
in my own language. 

In a council at Clermont, in the presence of pope Urban, 
these articles were enacted. " That the cathohc church 
shall be pure in faith ; free from all servitude : that bishops, 
or abbats, or clergy of any rank, shall receive no ecclesiasti- 
cal dignity from the hand of princes, or of any of the laity : 
that clergymen shall not hold prebends in two churches or 
cities : that no one shall be bishop and abbat at the same 
time : that ecclesiastical dignities shall be bought and sold 
by no one : that no person in holy orders shall be guilty of 
carnal intercourse : that such as not knowing the canonical 
prohibition had purchased canonries, should be pardoned ; 
but that they should be taken from such as knew they pos- 
sesed them by their own purchase, or that of their parents : 
that no layman from Ash- Wednesday, no clergyman from 
Quadragesima, to Easter, shall eat flesh : that, at all times, 
the first fast of the Ember Weeks, should be in the first 
week of Lent : that orders should be conferred, at all times, 
on the evening of Saturday, or on a Sunday, continuing fast- 
ing :* that on Easter-eve, service should not be celebrated 
till after the ninth hour : that the second fast should be 
observed in the week of Pentecost : that from our Lord's 
Advent, to the octave of the Epiphany ; from Septuagesima 
to the octaves of Easter ; from the first day of the Rogations 

* If orders could not be completely conferred on Saturday, the cere- 
mony might be performed on Sunday ; and the parties continuing to fast 
the two days were considered as one only. — Durand. 

358 WILLIAJM OF MALMESBURY. [b. iv. c 2. 

to the octaves of Pentecost ; and from the fourth day of the 
week at sunset, at all times, to the second day in the follow- 
ing week at sunrise, the Truce of God be observed :* that 
whoever laid violent hands on a bishop should be excommu- 
nicated : that whoever laid violent hands on clergymen or 
their servants should be accursed : that whoever seized the 
goods of bishops or clergymen at their deaths, should be 
accursed : that whoever married a relation, even in the sixth 
degree of consanguinity, should be accursed : that none 
should be chosen bishop, except a priest, deacon, or sub- 
deacon who was of noble descent, unless under pressing 
necessity, and licence from the pope : that the sons of priests 
and concubines should not be advanced to the priesthood, 
unless they first made their vow : that whosoever fled to the 
church, or the cross, should, being insured from loss of limb, 
be delivered up to justice ; or if innocent, be released : that 
every church should enjoy its own tithes, nor pass them 
away to another : that laymen should neither buy nor sell 
tithes ; that no fee should be demanded for the burial of the 
dead. In this council the pope excommunicated Philip, king 
of France, and all who called him king or lord, and obeyed 
or spoke to him, unless for the purpose of correcting him : in 
like manner too his accursed consort, and all who called her 
queen or lady, till they so far reformed as to separate from 
each other ; and also Guibert of Ravenna, who calls him- 
self pope : and Henry, emperor of Germany, who supports 

Afterwards, a clear and forcible discourse, such as should 
come from a priest, was addressed to the people, on the sub- 
ject of an expedition of the Christians, against the Turks. 
This I have thought fit to transmit to posterity, as I have 
learned it fromJliQse who were present, preserving its 
sense Unimpaired. For who can preserve the force of 
that eloquence ? We shall be fortunate, if, treading an 
adjacent path, we come even by a circuitous route to its 

* The Truce of God, was so called from the eagerness with which its 
first proposal was received by the suffering people of every degi-ee : during 
the time it endured, no one dared infringe it, by attacking his fellows. See 
Du Cange : and Robertson's Charles V. vol. i. It was blamed by some 
bishops as furnishing an occasion of perjury, and was rejected by the Nor- 

A.D. 1095.] POPE urban's speech.. 359 

" You recollect," * said he, " my dearest brethren, many- 
things which have been decreed for you, at tliis time ; some 
matters, in our council, commanded ; others inhibited. A 
rude and confused chaos of crimes required the deliberation 
of many days ; an inveterate malady demanded a sharp 
remedy. For while we give unbounded scope to our 
clemency, our papal office finds numberless matters to 
proscribe ; none to spare. But it has hitherto arisen 
from human frailty, that you have erred, and that, 
deceived by the speciousness of vice, you have exasperated 
the long suffering of God, by too lightly regarding his 
forbearance. It has arisen too from human wantonness, 
that, disregarding lawful wedlock, you have not duly 
considered the heinousness of adultery. From too great 
covetousness also, it has arisen, that, as opportunity offered, 
making captive your brethren, bought by the same great 
price, you have outrageously extorted from them their 
wealth. To you, however, now suffering this perilous 
shipwreck of sin, a secure haven of rest is offered, 
unless you neglect it. A station of perpetual safety will 
be awarded you, for the exertion of a trifling labour against 
the Turks. Compare, now, the labours which you underwent i 
in the practice of wickedness, and those which you will j 
encounter in the undertaking I advise. The intention of 
committing adultery, or murder, begets many fears ; for, as 
Soloman says, ' There is nothing more timid than guilt : ' 
many labours ; for what is more toilsome than wickedness ? 
But, 'He who walks uprightly, walks securely.' Of these 
labours, of these fears, the end was sin ; the wages of sin is 
death ; the death of sinners is most dreadful. Now the same 
labours and apprehensions are required from you, for a better 
consideration. The cause of these labours, will be charity ; 
if thus warned by the command of God, you lay down your 
lives for the brethren : the wages of charity will be the grace 
of God ; the grace of God is followed by eternal life. Go 
then prosperously : Go, then, with confidence, to attack the 
enemies of God. For they long since, oh sad reproach to 
mans, as contrary to their privileges. The Truce of God was first esta- 
blished in Aquitaine, 103'2. 

* There are other orations, said to have been delivered by Urban in this 
council, remaining ; and L'Abbe (Concil. T. x.) has printed one from a 
Vatican MS. ; but they are all very inferior to Malmesbury. 

360 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. rv. c. 2. 

Christians ! have seized Syria, Armenia, and lastly, all Asia 
Minor, the provinces of which are Bithynia, Phrygia, 
Galatia, Lydia, Caria, Pamphylia, Isauria, Lycia, Cilicia ; 
and, now they insolently domineer over lUyricum, and all 
the hither countries, even to the sea which is called the 
Straits of St. George. Nay, they usurp even the sepulchre 
of our Lord, that singular assurance of our faith ; and sell 
to our pilgrims admissions to that city, which ought, had 
they a trace of their ancient courage left, to be open to 
Christians only. This alone might be enough to cloud our 
brows ; but now, who except the most abandoned, or the 
most envious of Christian reputation, can endure that we do 
not divide the world equally with them ? They inhabit Asia, 
the third portion of the world, as their native soil, which was 
justly esteemed by our ancestors equal, by the extent of its 
tracts and greatness of its provinces, to the two remaining 
parts. There, formerly, sprang up the first germs of our 
faith ; there, all the apostles, except two, consecrated their 
deaths ; there, at the present day, the Christians, if any 
survive, sustaining life by a wretched kind of agriculture, 
pay these miscreants tribute, and even with stifled sighs, 
long for the participation of your liberty, since they have 
lost their own. They hold Africa also, another quarter of 
the world, already possessed by their arms for more than 
two hundred years ; which on this account I pronounce 
derogatory to Christian honour, because that country was 
anciently the nurse of celebrated geniuses, who, by their 
divine writings, will mock the rust of antiquity as long as 
there shall be a person who can relish Roman literature : * 
the learned know the truth of what I say. Europe, the 
third portion of the world remains ; of which, how small a 
part do we Christians inhabit ? for who can call all those 
barbarians who dwell in remote islands of the Frozen Ocean, 
Christians, since they live after a savage manner ? Even 
this small portion of the world, belonging to us, is oppressed 
by the Turks and Saracens. Thus for three hundred years, 
Spain and the Balearic isles have been subjugated to them, 
and the possession of the remainder is eagerly anticipated 
by feeble men, who, not having courage to engage in close 
encounter, love a flying mode of warfare. For the Turk 
* He alludes to St. Augustine and the fathers of the African church. 

A.D1095.] POPE URBAn's SPEECH. 361 

never ventures upon close figlit ; but, when driven from his 
station, bends his bow at a distance, and trusts the winds 
with his meditated wound ; and as he has poisoned arrows, 
venom, and not valour, inflicts the death on the man he 
strikes. Whatever he effects, then, I attribute to fortune, 
not to courage, because he wars by flight, and by poison. It 
is apparent too, that every race, born in that region, being 
scorched with the intense heat of the sun, abounds more in 
reflexion, than in blood ; and, therefore, they avoid coming 
to close quarters, because they are aware how little blood 
they possess. Whereas the people who are born amid the 
polar frosts, and distant from the sun's heat, are less cautious 
indeed ; but, elate from their copious and luxuriant flow of 
blood, they fight with the greatest alacrity. You are a nation 
born in the more temperate regions of the world ; who may 
be both prodigal of blood, in defiance of death and wounds ; 
and are not deficient in prudence. For you equally preserve 
good conduct in camp, and are considerate in battle. Thus 
endued with skill and with valour, you undertake a memora- 
ble expedition. You will be extolled throughout all ages, if 
you rescue your brethren from danger. To those present, in 
God's name, I command this ; to the absent I enjoin it. Let 
such as are going to fight for Christianity, put the form of 
the cross upon their garments, that they may, outwardly, 
demonstrate the love arising from their inward faith ; 
enjoying by the gift of God, and the privilege of St. Peter, 
absolution from all their crimes : let this in the meantime 
soothe the labour of their journey ; satisfied that they shall 
obtain, after death, the advantages of a blessed martyrdom. 
Putting an end to your crimes then, that Christians may 
at least Hve peaceably in these countries, go, and employ in 
nobler warfare, that valour, and that sagacity, which you 
used to waste in civil broils : Go, soldiers every where 
renowned in fame, go, and subdue these dastardly nations. 
Let the noted valour of the French advance, which, 
accompanied by its adjoining nations, shall affright the 
whole world by the single terror of its name. But why do 
I delay you longer by detracting from the courage of the 
gentiles ? Rather bring to your recollection the saying of 
God, ' Narrow is the Avay which leadeth to life.' Be it so 
then : the track to be followed is narrow, replete with death. 

362 ^VILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. iv. c. 2. 

and terrible with dangers ; still this path will lead to your 
lost country. No doubt you must, 'by much tribulation 
enter into the kingdom of God.' Place then, before your 
imagination, if you shall be made captive, torments and 
chains ; nay, every possible suffering that can be inflicted. 
Expect, for the firmness of your faith, even horrible punish- 
ments ; that so, if it be necessary, you may redeem your 
souls at the expense of your bodies. Do you fear death ? 
you men of exemplary courage and intrepidity. Surely 
human wickedness can devise nothing against you, worthy 
to be put in competition with heavenly glory : for the 
sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared 
' to the glory which shall be revealed in us.' Know ye not, 
*that for men to live is wretchedness, and happiness to 
die ? ' This doctrine, if you remember, you imbibed with 
your mother's milk, through the preaching of the clergy : 
and this doctrine your ancestors, the martyrs, held out by 
example. Death sets free from its filthy prison the human 
soul, which then takes flight for the mansions fitted to its 
virtues. Death accelerates their country to the good : death 
cuts short the wickedness of the ungodly. By means of 
death, then, the soul, made free, is either soothed with joyful 
hope, or is punished without farther apprehension of worse. 
So long as it is fettered to the body, it derives from it 
earthly contagion ; or to say more truly, is dead. For, 
earthly with heavenly, and divine with mortal, ill agree. 
The soul, indeed, even now, in its state of union with the 
body, is capable of great efforts ; it gives life to its instru- 
ment, secretly moving and animating it to exertions almost 
beyond mortal nature. But when, freed from the clog which 
drags it to the earth, it regains its proper station, it partakes 
of a blessed and perfect energy, communicating after some 
measure with the invisibility of the divine nature. Dis- 
charging a double office, therefore, it ministers life to the 
body when it is present, and the cause of its change, when 
it departs. You must observe how pleasantly the soul wakes 
in the sleeping body, and, apart from the senses, sees many 
future events, from the principle of its relationship to the 
Deity. Why then do ye fear death, who love the repose of 
sleep, which resembles death ? Surely it must be madness, 
through lust of a transitory life, to deny yourselves that 

A.D 1095.] POPE URBAN's SPEECH. 363 

which is eternal. Rather, my dearest brethren, should it so 
happen, lay down your lives for the brotherhood. Rid God's 
sanctuary of the wicked : expel the robbers : bring in the 
pious. Let no love of relations detain you ; for man's 
chiefest love is towards God. Let no attachment to your 
native soil be an impediment ; because, in diiFerent points 
of view, all the world is exile to the Christian, and all the 
world his country. Thus exile is his country, and his 
country exile. Let none be restrained from going by the 
largeness of his patrimony, for a still larger is promised 
him ; not of such things as soothe the miserable with vain 
expectation, or flatter the indolent disposition with the mean 
advantages of wealth, but of such as are shewn by perpetual 
example and approved by daily experience. Yet these too 
are pleasant, but vain, and which, to such as despise them, 
produce reward a hundred-fold. These things I publish, 
these I command : and for their execution I fix the end of 
the ensuing spring. God will be gracious to those who 
undertake this expedition, that they may have a favourable 
year, both in abundance of produce, and in serenity of 
season. Those who may die will enter the mansions of 
heaven ; while the living shall behold the sepulchre of the 
Lord. And what can be greater happiness, than for a man, 
in his life-lime, to see those places, where the Lord of 
heaven was conversant as a man ? Blessed are they, who, 
called to these occupations, shall inherit such a recompence : 
fortunate are those who are led to such a conflict, that they 
may partake of such rewards." 

I have adhered to the tenor of this address, retaining 
some few things unaltered, on account of the truth of the re- 
marks, but omitting many. The bulk of the auditors were 
extremely excited, and attested their sentiments by a shout ; 
pleased with the speech, and inclined to the pilgrimage. And 
immediately, in presence of the council, some of the nobility, 
falling down at the knees of the pope, consecrated themselves 
and their property to the service of God. Among these was 
Aimar, the very powerful bishop of Puy, who afterwards 
ruled the army by his prudence, and augmented it through 
his eloquence. In the month of November, then, in which 
this council was held, each departed to his home : and the 
report of this good resolution soon becoming general, it 

364 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. iv. c. 2. 

gently wafted a cheering gale over the minds of the Chris- 
tians : which being universally diffused, there was no nation 
so remote, no people so retired, as not to contribute its por- 
tion. This ardent love not only inspired the continental 
provinces, but even all who had heard the name of Christ, 
whether in the most distant islands, or savage countries. 
The Welshman left his hunting ; the Scot his fellowship with 
lice ; * the Dane his drinking party ; the Norwegian his raw 
fish. Lands were deserted ol their husbandmen ; houses of 
their inhabitants ; even whole cities migrated. There was 
no regard to relationship ; affection to their country was 
held in little esteem ; God alone was placed before their eyes. 
Whatever was stored in granaries, or hoarded in chambers, 
to answer the hopes of the avaricious husbandman, or the 
covetousness of the miser, all, all was deserted ; they hun- 
gered and thirsted after Jerusalem alone. Joy attended such 
as proceeded ; while grief oppressed those who remained. 
But why do I say remained ? You might see the husband 
departing with his wife, indeed, with all his family ; you 
would smile to see the Avhole household laden on a carriage, 
about to proceed on their journey.| The road was too nar- 
row for the passengers, the path too confined for the travel- 
lers, so thickly were they thronged with endless multitudes. 
The number surpassed all human imagination, though the 
itinerants were estimated at six millions.}: Doubtless, never 
did so many nations unite in one opinion ; never did so im- 
mense a population subject their unruly passions to one, and 
almost to no, direction. For the strangest wonder to behold 
was, that such a countless multitude marched gradually 
through various Christian countries without plundering, 
though there was none to restrain them. Mutual regard 

* This gratuitous insult on a brave and noble people is unAvorthy a wri- 
ter like William of Malmesbury ; but the monkish historians were as defi- 
cient in taste as in style. The cloister was a useful seminary to teach the 
plodding accuracy which is required to Avrite a chronicle ; but for elevation 
of mind and diffusion of liberal sentiment, it was as inefficient as it is still. 

t The rustic, observes Guibert, shod his oxen like horses, and placed his 
whole family on a cart ; where it was amusing to hear the children, on the 
approach to any large town or castle, inquiring, if that were Jerusalem. 
Guib. Novigent. Opera, p. 482. 

X Fulcher says, those who assumed the cross were estimated at that 
number ; but that multitudes returned home ere they passed the sea. Ful- 
cherius Carnotensis ap. Gesta Dei per Francos, p. 387. 

A D. 1095.] EFFECT OF URBAN's SPEECH. 365 

blazed forth in all ; so that if any one found in his possession 
what he knew did not belong to him, he exposed it every- 
where for several days to be owned ; and the desire of the 
finder was suspended, till perchance the wants of the loser 
might be repaired.* 

The long-looked for month of March was now at hand, 
when, the hoary garb of winter being laid aside, the world, 
clad in vernal bloom, invited the pilgrims to the confines of 
the east ; nor, such was the ardour of their minds, did they 
seek delay. Godfrey, duke of Lorraine, proceeded by way of 
Hungary : second to none in military virtue, and, descended 
from the ancient lineage of Charles the Great, he inherited 
much of Charles both in blood and in mind. He was fol- 
lowed by the Frisons, Lorrainers, Saxons, and all the people 
who dwell between the Rhine and the Garonne.f Raimund, 
earl of St. Giles, and Aimar, bishop of Puy, nobly matched 
in valour, and alike noted for spirit against the enemy and 
piety to God, took the route of Dalmatia. Under their 
standard marched the Goths and Gascons, and all the people 
scattered throughout the Pyrenees and the Alps. Before 
them, by a shorter route, went Boamund, an Apulian by 
residence, but a Norman by descent. For embarking at 
Brindisi, and landing at Durazzo, he marched to Constanti- 
nople by roads with which he was well acquainted. Under 
his command, Italy, and the whole adjacent province, from 
the Tuscan sea to the Adriatic, joined in the war. All these 
assembling at the same time at Constantinople, partook some- 
what of mutual joy. Here, too, they found Hugh the Great, 
brother of Philip, king of France : for having inconsiderately, 
and with a few soldiers, entered the territories of the empe- 
ror, he Avas taken by his troops, and detained in free custody. 
But Alexius, emperor of Constantinople, alarmed at the arri- 
val of these chiefs, willingly, but, as it were, induced by their 
entreaties, released him. Alexius was a man famed for his 
duplicity, and never attempted any thing of importance, 
unless by stratagem. He had taken off Guiscard, as I before 

* However repugnant 'this representation may be to the generally re- 
ceived opinion, it is that of an eye-witness, when describing the army 
assembled at Constantinople. Fulch. Carnot. p. 389. 

t It should probably be the Elbe, as he appears to describe the people 
of northern Germany, 

r366 WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. [b. rv. c. 2. 

related, by poison, and had corrupted his wife by gold ; 
falsely promising by his emissaries to marry her. Again, 
too, he allowed William, earl of Poitou, to be led into an 
ambush of the Turks, and, after losing sixty thousand sol- 
diers, to escape almost unattended ; being incensed at his 
reply, when he refused homage to the Greek. In after time, 
he laid repeated snares for Boamund, who was marching 
against him to avenge the injuries of the crusaders ; and 
when these failed he bereaved him of his brother Guido, and 
of almost all his arriiy ; making use of his usual arts either 
in poisoning the rivers, or their garments : but of this here- 
after. Now, however, removing the army from the city, and 
mildly addressing the chiefs, his Grecian eloquence proved 
so powerful, that he obtained from them all homage, and an 
oath, that they would form no plot against him ; and that if 
they could subdue the cities pertaining to his empire, they 
would restore them to him, thus purchasing another's advan- 
tage at the expense of their own blood. The credit of main- 
taining his liberty appeared more estimable to Raimund 
alone ; so that he neither did homage to him, nor took the 
oath. Collecting, then, all their forces, they made an attack 
on Nicea, a city of Bithynia : for they chose to assault this 
first, both as it was an obstacle to the crusaders, and as they 
were eager to revenge the death of those pilgrims who had 
recently been slain there. For one Walter, a distinguished 
soldier, but precipitate, (for you will scarcely see prudence 
and valour united in the same person, as one retards what 
the other advances,) incautiously roaming around the walls, 
had perished with a numerous party, which Peter the hermit 
had allured, by his preaching, from their country. 

Now, too, in the month of September, Robert earl of 
Normandy, brother of king William whose name is prefixed 
to this book, earnestly desiring to enter on the expedition, 
had as his companions Robert of Flanders, and Stephen of 
Blois who had married his sister. They were earls of noble 
lineage and corresponding valour. Under their command 
were the English and Normans, the Western Franks and 
people of Flanders, and all the tribes which occupy the con- 
tinental tract from the British Ocean to the Alps. Proceed- 
ing on their journey, at Lucca they found pope Urban, who 
being enraged at Guibert, as I have said, was, by the assist- 

A.D. 1097.] ANCIENT ROME. 367 

ance of Matilda, carrying war into Italy and around the city 
of Rome. He had now so far succeeded that the Roman 
people, inclining to his party, were harassing that of Guibert, 
both by words and blows ; nor did the one faction spare the 
other, either in the churches or in the streets, until Guibert, 
being weakest, left the see vacant for Urban, and fled to 

Of Rome, formerly the mistress of the globe, but which 
now, in comparison of its ancient state, appears a small 
town ; and of the Romans, once " Sovereigns over all and the 
gowned nation,"* who are now the most fickle of men, bar- 
tering justice for gold, and dispensing with the canons for 
money ; of this city and its inhabitants, I say, whatever I 
might attempt to write, has been anticipated by the verses 
of Hildebert, first, bishop of Mans, and afterwards archbishop 
of Tours.j" Which I insert, not to assume the honour 
acquired by another man's labour, but rather as a proof of a 
liberal mind, while not envying his fame, I give testimony to 
his charming poetry. 

Rome, still thy ruins grand beyond compare, 
Thy former greatness mournfully declare, 
Though time thy stately palaces around 
Hath strewed, and cast thy temples to the ground. 
Fall'n is the power, the power Araxes dire 
Regiets now gone, and dreaded when entire ; 
Which arms and laws, and ev'n the gods on high 
Bade o'er the world assume the mastery ; 
Which guilty Caesar rather had enjoyed 
Alone, than e'er a fostering hand employed. 
Which gave to foes, to vice, to friends its care, 
Subdued, restrained, or bade its kindness share 
This growing power the holy fathers reared. 
Where near the stream the fav'ring spot appeared 
From either pole, materials, artists meet, 
And rising wails their proper station greet ; 
Kings gave their treasures, fav'ring too was fate. 
And arts and riches on the structure wait. 
FalFn is that city, whose proud fame to reach, 
I merely say, " Rome was," there fails my speech. 

• Vir^, ^neidi. 281. 

f " Hildebert was translated to Tours, a.d. 1125, upon the death of 
Gislebert, who died at Rome about the middle of December, 1124, in the 
Siinie week with pope Calixtus. fOrd. Vit. lib. xii. p. 882.) " — Hardy. 

368- TTILLIAM OF 3IALMESCUKT. [^ «v.c.2. 

Still neither time's decay, nor sword, nor fire, 

Shall cause its beauty wholly to expire. 

Human exertions raised that splendid Rome, 

Which gods in vain shall strive to overcome. 

Bid wealth, bid marble, and bid fate attend, 

And watchful artists o'er the labour bend. 

Still shall the matchless ruin art defy 

The old to rival, or its loss supply. 

Here gods themselves their sculptur'd forms admire, 

And only to reflect those forms aspire ; 

Nature unable such like gods to form, 

Left them to man's creative genius warm ; 

Life breathes within them, and the suppliant falls. 

Not to the God, but statues in the walls. 

City thrice blessed ! were tyrants but away. 

Or shame compelled them justice to obey. 

Are not these sufficient to point out in sucli a citj, both 
the dignity of its former advantages, and the majesty of its 
present ruin ? But that nothing may be wanting to its 
honour, I will add the number of its gates, and the multi- 
tude of its sacred relics ; and that no person may complain 
of his being deprived of any knowledge by the obscurity of 
the narrative, the description shall run in an easy and fami- 
liar style.* 

The first is the Cornelian gate, which is now called the 
gate of St. Peter, and the Cornelian way. Near it is situ- 
ated the church of St. Peter, in which his body lies, decked 
with gold and silver, and precious stones : and no one knows 
the number of the holy martyrs who rest in that church. On 
the same way is another church, in which lie the holy 
virgins Rufina and Secunda. In a third church, are Marius 
and Martha, and Audifax and Abacuc, their sons. 

The second is the Flaminian gate, which is now called the 
gate of St. Valentine,! and the Flaminian way, and when it 
arrives at the Milvian bridge, it takes the name of the Ra- 
s'^ennanian way, because it leads to Ravenna ; and there, at 
the first stone without the gate, St. Valentine rests in his 

The third is called the PorcinianJ gate, and the way the 

* For a very interesting account of the walls and gates of Rome, see 
Andrew Lumisden's " Remarks on the Antiquities of Rome and its Envi- 
rons, London, 4to. 1797." 

t Now called Porta del Popolo. ij: Porta Pinciana. 


same ; but wliere it joins the Salarian, it loses its name, and 
there, nearly in the spot which is called Cucumeris, lie the 
martyrs, Festus, Johannes, Liberalis, Diogenes, Blastus, Lu- 
cina, and in one sepulchre, the Two Hundi-ed and Sixty,* in 
another, the Thirty. 

The fourth is the Salarian f gate and way; now called St. 
Silvester's. Here, near the road, lie St. Hermes, and St. 
Vasella, and Prothus, and Jacinctus, Maxilian, Herculan, 
Crispus ; and, in another place, hard by, rest the holy mar- 
tyrs Pamphilus and Quirinus, seventy steps beneath the sur- 
face. Next is the church of St. Felicity, where she rests, 
and Silanus her son ; and not far distant, Boniface the mar- 
tyr. In another church, there are Crisantus, and Daria, 
and Saturninus, and Maurus, and Jason, and their mother 
Hilaria, and others innumerable. And in another churcli, 
St. Alexander, Vitalis, Martiahs, sons of St. Felicity; and 
seven holy virgins, Saturnina, Hilarina, Duranda, Rogan- 
tina, Serotina, Paulina, Donata. Next the church of St. 
Silvester, where he lies under a marble tomb; and the 
martyrs, Celestinus, Philippus, and Felix; and there too, 
the Three Hundred and Sixty-five martyrs rest in one 
sepulchre; and near them lie Paulus and Crescentianus, 
Prisca and Semetrius, Praxides and Potentiana. 

The fifth is called the Numentan| gate. There lies St. 
Nicomede, priest and martyr ; the way too is called by the 
same name. Near the road are the church and body of St. 
Agnes ; in another church, St. Ermerenciana, and the 
martyrs, Alexander, Felix, Papias ; at the seventh stone on 
this road rests the holy pope Alexander, with Euentius and 

The sixth is the Tiburtine § gate and way, which is now 
called St. Lawrence's : near this way lies St. Lawrence in 
his church, and Habundius the martyr: and near this, in 
another church, rest these martyrs, Ciriaca, Romanus, Justi- 
nus, Crescentianus ; and not far from hence the church of 
St. Hyppolitus, where he himself rests, and his family, 
eighteen in number ; there too repose, St. Trifonia, the wife 

* The Two Hundred and Sixty are said to have been shot with arrows 
in the amphitheatre, by order of Claudius. The Thirty suffered under 
Diocletian. t Porta Salaria. 

:^ Porta Pja. § Porta di San Lorenzo. 

370 WILLIAM OF IIALMESBURY. [B. iv. c. 2. 

of Decius, and his daughter Cirilla, and her nurse Con- 
cordia. And in another part of this way is the church of 
Agapit the martyr. 

The seventh is called, at present, the Greater gate,* for- 
merly the Seracusan, and the way the Lavicanian, which 
leads to St. Helena. Near this are Peter, Marcellinus, 
Tyburtius, Geminus, Gorgonius, and the Forty Soldiers,! 
and others without number; and a little farther the Four 

The eighth is the gate of St. John,§ which by the an- 
cients was called Assenarica. The ninth gate is called Me- 
trosa ;|| and in front of both these runs the Latin way. The 
tenth is called the Latin gate,1[ and way. Near this, in one 
church, lie the martyi's, Gordianus and Epimachus, Sulpi- 
cius, Servilianus, Quintinus, Quartus, Sophia, Triphenus. 
Near this too, in another spot, TertuUinus, and not far 
distant, the church of St. Eugenia, in which she lies, and 
her mother Claudia, and pope Stephen, with nineteen of his 
clergy, and Nemesius the deacon. 

The eleventh is called the Appian gate** and way. There 
lie St. Sebastian, and Quirinus, and originally the bodies of 
the apostles rested there. A little nearer Rome, are the 
martyrs, Januarius, Urbanus, Xenon, Quirinus, Agapetus, 
Felicissimus ; and in another church, Tyburtius, Valerianus, 
Maximus. Not far distant is the church of the martyr Ce- 
cilia; and there are buried Stephanus, Sixtus, Zeiferinus, 
Eusebius, Melchiades, Marcellus, Eutychianus, Dionysius, 
Antheros, Pontianus, pope Lucius, Optacius, Julianus, Calo- 
cerus, Parthenius, Tharsicius, Politanus, martyrs: there too 
is the church and body of St. Cornelius: and in another 
church, St. Sotheris: and not far off, rest the martyrs, 
Hippolytus, Adrianus, Eusebius, Maria, Martha, Paulina, 
Valeria, Marcellus, and near, pope Marcus in his church. 

* Porta Maggiore. 

t The Forty Soldiers suffered martyrdom under Licinius at Sebastia in 

X So called, because for a long time after they had suffered martyrdom 
(martyrio coronati) their names were unknown ; and though afterwards 
their real names were revealed to a certain priest, yet they still continued 
to retain their former designation. § Porta di San Giovanni. 

II There is no notice of this in Lumisden: it is probably now destroyed. 

^ Porta Latina. * * Porta di San Sebastiano. 


Between the Appian and Ostiensian way, is the Ardeatine 
way, where are St. Marcus, and MarceUianus. And there 
lies pope Damasus in his church ; and near him St. Petron- 
illa, and Nereus, and Achilleus, and many more. 

The twelfth gate and way is called the Ostiensian, but, at 
present, St. Paul's,* because he lies near it in his church. 
There too is the martyr Timotheus : and near, in the church 
of St. Tecla, are the martyrs Felix, Audactus, and Neme- 
sius. At the Three Fountainsf is the head of the martyr 
St. Anastasius. 

The thirteenth is called the PortuanJ gate and way; near 
which in a church are the martyrs, Felix, Alexander, Ab- 
don and Sennes, Symeon, Anastasius, PoKon, Vincentius, 
Milex, Candida, and Innocentia. 

The fourteenth is the Aurelian§ gate and way, which 
now is called the gate of St. Pancras, because he lies near it 
in his church, and the other martyrs, Paulinus, Arthemius, 
St. Sapientia, with her three daughters. Faith, Hope, and 
Charity. In another church. Processus and Martinianus; 
and, in a third, two Felixes ; in a fourth Calixtus, and Cale- 
podius; in a fifth St. Basilides. At the twelfth milliary 
within the city, on Mount Celius, are the martyrs Johannes, 
and Paulus, in their dwelling, which was made a church 
after their martyrdom: and Crispin and Crispinianus, and 
St. Benedicta. On the same mount, is the church of St. 
Stephen, the first martyr ; and there are buried the martjnrs 
Primus, and Felicianus; on Mount Aventine St. Boniface; 
and on Mount Nola, St. Tatiana rests. 

Such are the Roman sanctuaries ; such the sacred pledges 
upon earth : and yet in the midst of this heavenly treasure, 
as it Avere, a people drunk with senseless fury, even at the 
very time the crusaders arrived, were disturbing everything 
with wild ambition, and, when unable to satisfy their lust of 
money, pouring out the blood of their fellow citizens over 
tlie very bodies of the saints.] The earls, confiding then 

* Porta di San Paolo. 

f Aquas Saluias, now Trefontane. The tradition is, that St. Paul was 
l:)€headed on this spot: that his head, on touching the ground, rebounded 
twice, and that a fountain immediately burst forth from each place where 
it fell. See Lumisden. J Porta Portese. § Porti di San Pancrazio. 

II Sacred places and bodies of saints long since deceased, are but feeble 
safeguards against the outbreak or even moderate agency of human pas- 
B B 2 


in Urban's benediction, having passed tbrough Tuscany and 
Campania, came by Apulia to Calabria, and would have 
embarked immediately had not the seamen, on being con- 
sulted, forbade them, on account of the violence of the 
southerly winds. In consequence, the earls of Normandy 
and Blois passed the winter there; sojourning each among 
their friends, as convenient. The earl of Flanders, alone, 
ventured to sea, experiencing a prosperous issue to a rash 
attempt : wherefore part of this assembled multitude re- 
turned home through want; and part of them died from 
the unwholesomeness of the climate. The earls who re- 
mained however, when by the vernal sun's return they saw 
the sea sufficiently calm for the expedition, committed them- 
selves to the ocean, and, by Christ's assistance, landed safely 
at two ports. Thence, through Thessaly, the metropolis of 
which is Thessalonica, and Thracia, they came to Constan- 
tinople. Many of the lower order perished on the march 
through disease and want ; many lost their lives at the De- 
vil's Ford, as it is called from its rapidity ; and more indeed 
would have perished, had not the advanced cavalry been 
stationed in the river, to break the violence of the current ; 
by which means the lives of some were saved, and the rest 
passed over on horseback. The whole multitude then, to 
solace themselves for their past labours, indulged in rest 
for fifteen days, pitching their camp in the suburbs of the 
city ; of which, as the opportunity has presented itself, I 
shall briefly speak. 

Constantinople was first called Byzantium : which name is 
still preserved by the imperial money called Bezants. St. 
Aldhelm, in his book On Virginity,* relates that it changed 
its appellation by divine suggestion : his words are as follow. 
As Constantine was sleeping in this city, he imagined that 
there stood before him an old woman, whose forehead was 
furrowed with age; but, that presently, clad in an imperial 
robe, she became transformed into a beautiful girl, and so 
fascinated his eyes, by the elegance of her youthful charms, 
that he could not refrain from kissing her : that Helena, his 
mother, being present, then said, " She shall be yours for 

sions, which, in every country and under every form of superstition, act 
always in the same Avay. 

* Aldhelmi Opera, page 28. 


ever ; nor sliall she die, till the end of time." The solution 
of this dream, when he awoke, the emperor extorted from 
heaven, by fasting and almsgiving. And behold, within 
eight days, being cast again into a deep sleep, he thought 
he saw pope Silvester, who died some little time before, 
regarding his convert* with complacency, and saying, " You 
have acted with your customary prudence, in waiting for a 
solution, from God, of that enigma which was beyond the 
comprehension of man. The old woman you saw, is this 
city, worn down by age, whose time-struck walls, menacing 
approaching ruin, require a restorer. But you, renewing 
its walls, and its affluence, shall signalize it also with your 
name ; and here shall the imperial progeny reign for ever. 
You shall not, however, lay the foundations at your own 
pleasure ; but mounting the horse on which, when in the 
novitiate of your faith, you rode round the churches of the 
apostles at Rome, you shall give him the rein, and liberty 
to go whither he please : you shall have, too, in your hand, 
your royal spear, j* whose point shall describe the circuit of 
the wall on the ground. You will be regulated, therefore, 
in what manner to dispose the foundations of the wall by 
the track of the spear on the earth." 

The emperor eagerly obeyed the vision, and built a city 
equal to Rome ; alleging that the emperor ought not to reign 
in Rome, where the martyred apostles, from the time of 
Christ, held dominion. He built in it two churches, one 
of which was dedicated to peace ; the other to the apostles ; 
bringing thither numerous bodies of saints, who might con- 
ciliate the assistance of God against the incursions of its 
enemies. He placed in the circus, for the admiration and 
ornament of the city, the statues of triumphal heroes, 
brought from Rome, and the tripods from Delphi; and 
the images of heathen deities to excite the contempt of 
the beholders. They relate that it was highly gratifying 
to the mind of the emperor, to receive a mandate from 
heaven, to found a city in that place, where the fruitful- 
ness of the soil, and the temperature of the atmosphere 
conduced to the health of its inhabitants: for as he was 

* The story of Silvester's having baptized Constantine is considered as 
altogether unfounded. See Mosheim, vol. i. 

t Tliis, in Aldhelm, is the Labarum, or imperial standard. 

374 -VYILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. " [b. iv. c. 2. 

bom in Britain,* he could not endure the burning heat of 
the sun. But Thracia is a province ^f Europe, as the poets 
observe, extremely cool, "From Hebrus' ice, and the Bis- 
tonian north ;" and near to Mcesia, where, as Virgil remarks, 
"With wonder Gargara the harvest sees."f Constantinople, 
then, washed by the sea, obtains the mingled temperature 
both of Europe and of Asia ; because, from a short distance, 
the Asiatic east tempers the severity of the northern blast. 
The city is surrounded by a vast extent of walls, yet the 
influx of strangers is so great, as to make it crowded. In 
consequence they form a mole in the sea, by throwing in 
masses of rock, and loads of sand; and the space obtained 
by this new device, straitens the ancient waters. The sea 
wonders to see fields unknown before, amid its glassy waves ; 
and surrounds and supplies its city with all the conveniences 
of the earth. The town is encompassed on every side, ex- 
cept the north, by the ocean, and is full of angles in the 
circuit of its walls, where it corresponds with the -windings 
of the sea ; which walls contain a space of twenty miles in 
circumference. The Danube, f which is likewise called the 
Ister, flows in liidden channels under ground, into the city ; 
and on certain days being let out by the removal of a plug, 
it carries off the filth of the streets into the sea. All vied 
with the emperor in noble zeal to give splendour to this city, 
each thinking he was bound to advance the work in hand: 
one contributing holy relics, another riches, Constantine all 

After Constantine the Great, the following emperors reigned 
here. Constantine his son ; Julian the Apostate ; Jovinian, 
Valens, Theodosius the Great ; Arcadius, Theodosius the 
Younger ; Marchianus, Leo the First ; Zeno, Anastasius, 
Justin the Great ; Justinian, who, famed for his literature and 
his wars, built a church in Constantinople to Divine Wisdom ; 
that is, to the Lord Jesus Christ, which he called Hagia 
Sophia ; a work, as they report, surpassing every other 

* The place of his birth is contested. + Geor. i. 103. 

J " The Danube empties itself through six mouths into the Euxine. The 
river Lycus, formed by the conflux of two little streams, pours into the 
harbour of Constantinople a perpetual supply of fresh water, which serves 
to cleanse the bottom, and to invite the periodical shoals of fish to seek 
their retreat in the capacious port of Constantinople." — Hardy. 


edifice in the world, and where ocular inspection proves it 
superior to its most pompous descriptions : Justin the 
Younger ; Tiberius, Mauricius, the first Greek ; Focas, 
Heraclius, Heracleonas, Constans, Constantine, the son of 
Heraclius ; who, coming to Rome, and purloining all the 
remains of ancient decoration, stripped the churches even of 
their brazen tiles, anxiously wishing for triumphal honours, 
at Constantinople, even from such spoils as these ; his 
covetousness, however, turned out unfortunately for him, for 
being shortly after killed at Syracuse, he left all these 
honourable spoils to be conveyed to Alexandria by the Sara- 
cens ; Constantine, Leo the Second ; Justinian, again Justi- 
nian, Tiberius, Anastasius, Philippicus, Theodosius, Leo the 
Third ; all these reigned both at Constantinople and at 
E-ome : the following in Constantinople only ; Constantine, 
Leo, Constantine, Nicephorus, Stauratius, Michael, Theoplii- 
lus, Michael, Basilius, Leo, Alexander, Constantine, two 
Eomanuses, Nicephorus, Foca